Women’s Wages Wane

In their brilliant new book, Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever uncovered a startling fact: even women who negotiate brilliantly on behalf of others often falter when it comes to asking for themselves. Now…

Women’s earnings relative to men’s have stagnated at 73.2 percent. This is just one of many interesting, though profoundly disheartening facts to be gleaned from this groundbreaking book.

The authors are both distinguished scholars. Linda Babcock is a Professor of Economics at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University, and co-author Sara Laschever has written for the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review as well as many consumer magazines.

I heard an interview with the authors on my National Public Radio (WAMC) station and immediately ordered the book from Amazon the same day. I keep delving into it, determined to remember all the authors’ good advice.

I mention this as I’ve been wrestling with a problem of my own. A few weeks ago a friend told me she was planning to buy a “ton” of my new book, FOOD JOBS, as a premium for her company. It hasn’t happened.

I keep trying to think of a way I can prod her into actually placing an order. I’m afraid that if I actually ask her she won’t like me any more. In my heart I know the worst thing that could happen is she’d tell me she has changed her mind. She might tell me to buzz off. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, but why am I still hesitating?

I then read this good advice from Ask For It. “It’s time to test those muscles you’ve been building. This week, choose something big that you think it’s really not okay to want, something you think would make you seem greedy or selfish if you asked for it. And make sure it’s something you really do want. Then ask for it. Whether you get it or not, fight your impulse to apologize or feel bad. Tell yourself it’s okay to want what you want. Combat the impulse to scale back out of fear that you’re overreaching.”

So now I’m ready to make that phone call I’ve been postponing. (I’ll call tomorrow.)

Here’s something else the authors reveal about women. “At twenty-two, just out of college, you and a twenty-two-year-old man with the same qualifications are offered the same job for the same salary: $25,000. You accept the $25,000 while the man negotiates and raises his starting salary to $30,000. The man deposits the extra $5,000 in a low-earning account, an account that grows about 3 percent every year. Throughout your working lives, the two of you both average 3 percent annual salary increases but of course your salary can’t keep pace with his because he started out higher. Every year, the man takes the difference between what he would have earned if he’d accepted the $25,000 (what you’re earning) and what he’s actually earning because he negotiated for more, and he adds that amount to the same low-yield account he opened when he was twenty-two. By the time he’s ready to retire at 65, that account contains $784,192 — over three-quarters of a million dollars accumulated simply because he negotiated that one time. That’s over three-quarters of a million dollars you don’t have because you didn’t negotiate. If the man puts the money in an account earning 5 or 6 percent, his gains would be even higher.

Note: In fact if both you and the man had invested your money, you would probably have lost everything in today’s market but you certainly get the point. Perhaps in today’s “challenging” economy it would be more valuable to just ask for a new house, or a car or bottle of hemlock.

Ask For It has many, many examples of real life problems and their resolution. This is a great book. I recommend it with great enthusiasm.