Today we're wrapping up our conversation with Darra, an attorney from the Bay Area who was accused of being "money motivated" and advised not to negotiate her compensation in the future after attempting to negotiate a recent job offer.
After sharing that experience on social media, Darra was flooded with messages and comments from women who faced similar backlash (or worse) during their own salary negotiations
Today, we conclude our conversation with Darra by talking about how she would change the conversation around salary negotiation based on what she experienced and everything she heard in response to her tweet. (Edited for length and clarity).
I think I didn't understand all of the nuance of negotiating until I started hearing people share stories.
I mean, if you put your hand to the cookie jar and it gets slapped, you're not going to put your hand back into the cookie jar.
I think also sharing these stories about when negotiations may have backfired or not produced the outcome you wanted - talk about them to disarm people, to make sure it's not as scary if it happens to you.
I think I did operate under this idea that “the worst that can happen is they say, ‘no’.” And seeing the response on Twitter of people sharing how this happened to them, I realized, "Wow, this happens a lot more than I thought".
That doesn't make me feel afraid to negotiate in future. It makes me think, okay, there are multiple outcomes that could come from this and you kind of go in prepared. I don't think it's an acceptable outcome, but it doesn't mean it's not an impossible outcome.
For me, It kind of made me angry, and then made me think, I need to do something about this and I need to make sure that people feel empowered and have these conversations and it's not the company has the upper hand always.
Even as a teenager going for a part-time job, I thought that I'll be so lucky if they “pick me”, if they want me to be on their team - and my mind has changed so much.
They will be so lucky if they get someone like me on their team. I started seeing that these giant corporations are not as perfect and holy as I once thought they were.
I think the last couple of years, the labor market has shifted dramatically to be in the hands of employees, of people who don't have all this decision-making power traditionally. That's not going to work anymore in our modern world. It's not going to be the same way.
What's interesting is law school now is about 55% women, 45% men, and there are lots of women pursuing higher education, making sure they're extra, extra prepared to join this environment. And there are all of these highly educated women in law, and they start out in these junior roles. And as it goes into either partnership tracks or general counsel roles, they become so heavily male dominated.
So while in law school, I was around so many bright, brilliant women. My experience in practice, when I look up above me to the higher level attorneys, it's just a lot of old men.
I've been told I'm "too polite" or "approachable". And that I need to work on being a little more "aggressive" in terms of my presentation, because I'm plenty aggressive in my work, but I don't present myself in the same way.
I'm not going to come in with a frown on my face.
And it's been only two or three years that I've been in this environment, and the pushback is coming in.
And it's not always so directive like this, “How dare you negotiate?”
It's sort of those subtle subtleties of, “Oh, you should work on resting bitch face”, or, ”You should do this", or, "You should do that.”
And I feel like as a young woman, I'm being molded into what they want me to be, which is, if you can't be a man, just be a real "boring woman" because then that will be acceptable for us.
Note from the editor: The ambition diaries are a collection of interviews with women who've experienced the ambition penalty. The ambition penalty speaks to the paradox at the heart of women’s empowerment. To close gender gaps in pay, wealth and leadership, women have been directed to “speak up, negotiate more, and take what they deserve” — overlooking how women are often penalized for doing those very things.
The ambition penalty helps explain why decades of educational gains and a lifetime of “empowerment” haven’t translated into corresponding gains for women in the workforce, in wealth or in leadership. Because it’s not that women aren’t negotiating or speaking up or working to get what they deserve, it’s that they’re doing so within a network of institutions that undermine and penalize them when they do. And it’s these conditions, not the behavior of women, that need more of our attention if we want to make meaningful progress on measures of equity.
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