Previous research suggested that one reason for the gender pay gap is that women don’t ask for raises and promotions as often as men. A newer study contradicts this conclusion. The study published in the Harvard Business Review examined 4,600 randomly selected employees across 800 workplaces in Australia. This more recent and detailed data set shows that men and women ask for promotions and negotiate salaries at similar rates, but women are promoted and receive raises less often than men in similar roles. Researchers found that women who asked for a raise obtained it 15% of the time, while men who asked received a pay increase 20% of the time. While 5% may seem like a small difference, over time, the economic implications are substantial. The bottom line is that for women, asking does not mean getting. The next logical question is why? Perhaps the answer lies in how women ask.
Ask like an auctioneer
Dia Bondi, a Communications Coach, has spent the last 20 years working with world leaders and CEOs. She recently decided to combine two of her passions—coaching and auctioneering—to develop a program that prepares women to make bold asks with success. After she and 100 cowboys went to auctioneering school in St. Louis (which was on her bucket list), Bondi had an epiphany: “What if I could use some of the frameworks, skills and techniques I use in auctioneering to embolden the asks women are making? What if that helped them get more?” Thus, her program called Ask Like An Auctioneer was born. Bondi recommends the following steps to accelerate women’s financial and career success.
When you ask, are you asking big enough that you’ll negotiate down to the absolute best scenario for you and the other person or are you reducing your ask to make it more acceptable? If it is the latter, you may be leaving money and opportunity on the table. In this case, the key is to identify an ask that is big enough that it risks getting a no. When you feel your stomach turnover, you know that that’s the right number. Aim for the thing that has the potential for a no and then negotiate down to a win-win scenario.
Bold actions require fuel. In order to be able to ask for more and aim high, here are four ways to develop your “courage muscle”:
1.) Understand your why: one component that will assist you in being courageous is understanding your why. Know your goals. Ask yourself, what is this for? You want to earn more money, so what can happen? You want a new job title, so what can happen? You will feel more courageous once you can link your greater goal to the high risk ask because you’ve got your why behind it.
2.) Identify your reserve: just as in auctioneering, going into a negotiation requires you to know your reserve. In other words, what is the minimum you will agree to? If you know your reserve and commit to it, that’s courage making. Start with your ask, and then work your way down to get a yes somewhere between your courageous ask and your reserve.
3.) Plan beyond “no”: another consideration is to consider what you will do if you get a no. If you can answer that, that is a significant piece of information. What is your plan? Will you quit? Will you seek help from another mentor? Seeing beyond the potential no will allow you to go into the negotiation with a much more powerful mindset.
4.) Get used to the ZOFO: asking for what we want takes practice. It doesn’t happen overnight. Get used to taking risks and embrace what Dia calls the ZOFO (Zone of Freaking Out). Uncouple the expectation that when you make an ask, you’re supposed to feel perfectly confident about it. Confidence and comfort are not the same things. Being freaked out isn’t a signal you’re doing something wrong. It’s a signal you’re doing something courageous.
Asking like an auctioneer pushes you into an unfamiliar place, so you know you’ve left nothing on the table. Don’t wait for those “scheduled moments” (like that annual performance review) to ask for what you want. Create opportunities to make unsolicited requests. Experiment and find delight in what’s possible when you just go ahead and ask.