How to Ask For a Raise: Be Nice, But Not Too Nice. Be Self-Confident, But Not Pushy. And So On. Sigh.
We know how important advice like this is. Believe us, we do. But still, this piece, in the New York Times, just has us sighing and shaking our heads. It summarizes a study showing that women, duh, need to take a different tack when negotiating a raise—one that lets them ask for what they deserve without seeming, you know, pushy, or, god forbid, “unattractive.”
Yes, the advice itself is good. The problem is, it’s so damn complicated! It’s also dependent, unquestionably, on maintaining your role as a “good girl.” Some highlights:
- Avoid undermining your relationship with your boss.
- Explain why your request is appropriate, but in terms that also communicate that you care about maintaining good relationships at work.
- Instead of explaining why you deserve a raise directly, frame it in terms of why it makes sense for the organization or the person you’re trying to persuade.
- If you’re thinking about using an outside offer to help negotiate a raise, take heed. It’s effective …but studies have found that it tends to leave a more negative impression on women.
- Before you even start negotiating for a raise, or a promotion, consider how it might affect your life at home
The best advice, in our opinion? Talk to each other. Salary transparency, as many have argued, may be the best possible way to resolve the pay gap. So, dearests, please do as we’ve just done. Go to glassdoor.com and tell them what you make. For all our sakes.
Our perennial favorite girl-advocate Rachel Simmons has a fabulous piece up at the Huffington Post today about the ongoing conversation about workplace equality—and its connection to adolescent girls. She writes:
Women, and our struggle for workplace equality, seem to be having a moment. Seems like everywhere you look lately, there’s a story about how we don’t seek or win enough money for tech start-ups; how we still face sexism in the workplace; how there are not enough of us speaking as experts in national media; how we’re too nice to ask for lots of money; and how there are not enough of us willing to “behave like arrogant, self-aggrandizing jerks.”
Hand-wringing ensues. It’s sexism. It’s change that’s slow to come. It’s racism. It’s socialization. And yet one thing is very clear: almost no one is making more than a passing connection to girls.
Boys need help, too, Rachel continues. “But I can’t stand the argument that girls are flying high, powered by Title IX, mothers who boycotted Barbie and Girl Scout cookie sales. Because it’s just not true.”
Today’s Economix blog over at the New York Times asks, Do Nice Gals Finish Last? Nancy Folbre, an economist at UMass Amhurst, explains that social scientists have long observed how the aggressive “Machiavellian personality” more typical to men tends to improve economic success, increasing both efforts to demand higher pay and a propensity to lie, cheat and steal. Women, meanwhile, are more agreeable and altruistic than men—traits that are likely to increase productivity, but impair bargaining power.
Evidence is now mounting on the impact of non-cognitive traits such as personality on earnings.
Some personality traits — like conscientiousness — are likely to increase productivity. But other traits, including Machiavellianism and aggressiveness, can increase earnings via a more direct route.
In her new book, The Curse of the Good Girl, girl advocate Rachel Simmons explains how that pressure to be “nice” begins at adolescence. Young women, Simmons contends, force themselves to fit the mold of modest, selfless, rule-following “good girl” for fear of being labeled a “bitch.” But in the real world, as Folbre points out, it’s precisely those bitch-like (Machiavellian?) qualities that help people get ahead. Where this “curse” leaves women is with imbalanced salaries, lower titles, and shorter professional trajectories.
“This generation of young women has had it ingrained in them that they must thrive within a ‘yes, but’ framework: yes, be a go getter, but don’t come on too strong. Yes, accomplish, but don’t brag about it,” says Simmons. “The result is that young women are holding themselves back, saying, ‘I shouldn’t say this, ask for this, do this, it will make me unlikable, or a bitch, or an outcast.’”
What do you think: Is it possible to avoid the Good Girl curse?
In this week’s New York Times, columnist Nick Kristof reports on the latest trouble with young boys—who, according to the Center on Education Policy, have fallen behind girls in reading in every single state. “The most pressing issue related to gender gaps,” the report claims, “is the lagging performance of boys in reading.”
Before everyone starts freaking out about the boy crisis, a quick reality check:
Boys have been lagging behind girls in school for decades. As Peg Tyre wrote in her book, “The Trouble With Boys,” elementary-aged boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities; and the number of boys who said they didn’t like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses: thirty years ago, men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body, today, at 40 percent, they’re a minority. As Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. secretary of Education, told Newsweek in 2006, this widening achievement gap “has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.”
But here’s the rub: no matter how poorly boys do in school, there is no evidence to show that that those lags impede their later success. And in fact, young men still outpace women in the workforce to an astonishing degree. U.S. Department of Education data shows that despite earning lower college GPAs, men still earn some 20 percent more than women in their first jobs out of college. The wage gap widens as men accelerate into management positions more quickly—over a lifetime, male high school graduates will earn some $700,000 more than their wives or sisters; college graduates will earn $1.2 million more.
To be sure, academia is critical—but the workplace lasts the rest of your life. And while young women may thrive in a merit-based system, there is growing evidence to prove they don’t have the skills to excel in a professional setting. Young women are four times less likely to negotiate a first salary, and, according to a recent Girl Scouts study, afraid to take on leadership positions they fear will make them seem “bossy.” “The zeitgeist is that girls are excelling and boys are having trouble,” says Rachel Simmons, the author of The Curse of the Good Girl. But it all depends on what you’re measuring.” In other words, all those ribbons and medals don’t translate to the real world if women are too afraid to ask for what they deserve.
Kristof makes the point that this doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game: “We should be able to help struggling boys without imposing any cost on girls,” he writes. He’s right. But the reality remains: gender inequities still—as they have for centuries—damage many more women than men.