Know Your Worth, Negotiate Your Value

Women often don’t negotiate because of fear. “What’s the worst that can happen?” Bump asked.

Teri BumpTeri Bump

We know that women make less money than men in similar positions, with many recent estimates being 77 cents to a man’s dollar. The situation is even more dire for women of color, who earn even less than that.

We also know that one of the main reasons is because women are less likely to negotiate, or they negotiate ineffectively, when a position is offered. How can women more effectively negotiate their starting salary?

Teri Bump, vice president of university relations and student development for American Campus Communities, has made it one of her missions to help women and people of color attain positions of leadership in higher education, as well as ensure they are in fact paid what they deserve and what they are worth. As she moved from position to position, she noted the challenges underrepresented minorities faced when it came to moving into leadership positions and getting adequately compensated.

Negotiation was specifically the topic of her presentation “Our Values, Our Value, and The Ask” last December at the Women’s Leadership Institute held in Amelia Island FL.

 Step away from the f-word

Women often don’t negotiate because of fear. “What’s the worst that can happen?” Bump asked. Institutions invest a great deal of resources into a job search and they don’t want to see it fail to succeed, Bump reminded us, so remember that you are in a position of relative strength.

But we need to make sure that what we ask for is reasonable and doable. “We need to start sharing information, like salaries, so that emerging leaders go into the negotiations empowered by the right
information.” This is also where a mentor can help, stepping in to make key phone calls in order to fill in information gaps. “If you are on social media,” Bump said, “you have access to more information than ever before. Don’t be afraid to use it.”

Bump also pointed to research that shows that women are better at negotiating for others than men. “We need to start using those same negotiation skills on ourselves. We’re leaving money on the table when we don’t.” However, Bump did acknowledge that women don’t feel as comfortable negotiating for themselves, due to entrenched gender expectations. “Be enthusiastic about the opportunity and be ready to articulate your value and your ability to contribute.”

Part of the solution is to practice negotiating with a mentor, someone who has had experience on both sides of the negotiating table. “You need to ensure that when a real negotiation opportunity arises,” Bump explained, “you are ready for it.”

Work on the “likeability” factor

Bump also pointed to research showing that people who are identified as “likeable” move forward faster and are often preferred over people identified as “skilled” but unlikeable. “Likeable doesn’t mean ‘nice’; it can mean friendly, relevant, empathetic, and authentic.” It isn’t about pleasing other people, it is about getting along and being able to effectively collaborate with the people you work with.

You can show this quality in your negotiations by focusing on what you can do for the university, rather than simply demanding things. “If you can frame your requests according to how they will help you more effectively do your job, then they are more likely to be well-received.” You and the institution are working toward the same goal: a successful hire and a long-term, healthy working relationship with strong outcomes.

Have a plan

“We also have to keep in mind that not all people want the same things from a job,” Bump stated. “We need to make better choices, and that means having a plan.” This involves research, but also an honest assessment of what you value and need from a job.

That can include things like control, responsibility, committee assignments, office or workspace, flexible work times, etc. If you are clear about what makes you valuable, then you will be able to more effectively plan and negotiate what you want.

Having a plan also ensures that “you give it your best shot the first time.” Always ask for more, so that you are assured of getting what you really want. Make sure you have a clear idea of what matters most, and therefore, the point where you are willing to walk away from the job. “It’s difficult, but you have to be willing to walk away. There will be other jobs,” Bump pointed out.

The negotiations can also continue once you start your job. “Ask for things every single day that have meaning,” Bump advised. Your plan should include what you need moving forward in your position so that you can achieve your next career goals, to move up the ranks and salary scale. Keep asking for information from your network in order to be able to stay on top of what you need to know for your next negotiation.

Find a sponsor, be a sponsor

“A mentor talks to you,” Bump, citing Dr. Sylvia Hewlett’s advice in “Forget A Mentor—Find A Sponsor,” explained, “but a sponsor talks about you.” A sponsor will open doors and put you forward for opportunities that might not otherwise be available.

“If we want to be successful, we need to be betterat sharing information and helping each other move forward.” Bump encouraged us to look for opportunities to be a sponsor ourselves in order to help level the playing field for women.

Bump closed with the advice to “set yourself up for success and know that you are not alone.” If you create the conditions necessary for a successful negotiation, which includes researching and having access to the right information, having a strong sponsor, developing a sound plan, practicing negotiations, and being willing to walk away, then you successfully negotiate every time.

Teri Bump can be reached at

Skallerup Bessette, Lee. (2014, June). Know Your Worth, Negotiate Your Value. Women in Higher Education, 23(6), 7.

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