Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A.

Gabriela Cora M.D., M.B.A.

Alpha Females

Disregard the Stats - Make a Higher Salary Your Reality

Disregard the stats - make a higher salary your reality.

Posted Mar 02, 2011

Should we listen to stats that pound away at our self-image, explaining why women make less than men? We can look at the numbers and attribute our lesser pay to this well-established paradigm: women are paid less than men, period. Is this your reality? It’s not mine.

I worked in the federal government, having a standard pay where everybody made the same amount of money based on seniority; even then, I decided to join the US Public Health Service as this aligned with both my intention to do preventative work as well as aspiring to a higher salary. When I joined corporate America, my future boss was surprised by my response when, during the interview, he asked about my husband, a physician with a great job. My response to his inquiry was: imagine, although I was married, that I was a single, professional woman who needed to take full care of my home and family. He was surprised, as this was an unusual response from a candidate; I wanted to have the best salary that I could at the entry level. You’re always better off trying to come in at the top.

The following are some negotiation strategies that I would advise any women who want to be independent, well-paid, and at the top of their game. (These tips are also true for consultants.)

1) Research salary ranges within the position you’re seeking. This doesn’t mean that you cannot aspire to make more money, but people often go into a position without really knowing what their skills bring to the job itself or what would be available as pay. Once you know the market, you will have a better idea of the range that you may aspire to come in to.

2) Prepare yourself to be at a very highly competitive level so as to feel confident when requesting the highest potential pay or salary. The more you prepare yourself, the more you’re going to be sought after.

3) Do not talk about the salary before you’re asked. It is better to wait until after you feel that you have a positive relationship with your potential employer. Once he or she appreciates your value and potential contribution, you will have the buy-in and it will be a lot easier to share your ideas about how much money you would like to make. Have an idea in your mind prior to voicing it. At times, it may be best for you to ask the question back to the employer: what budget range is being offered for such a position? Once you hear the response, if you realize you have additional skills that you bring to the job, ensure that these are communicated to support your request of the salary on the higher range.

4) You need to be ready to walk away, if the salary you’re being offered is way below what you expected. A common mistake that people make is to accept a position where higher pay is hinted at in a future salary, three or six months from now. Remember, the future is not reality yet. You’re always better off negotiating the highest you can as you come in as compared to a potential fantasy, which is hard to grasp.

5) Focus on your own contribution and do not compare yourself with others. You will grow stronger from appreciating your own value than bringing yourself down by thinking that others are better than you are. If you go into an interview thinking that a male candidate will make more money than you will, he will. Do not sink into this self-defeating prophecy.

Never think that because it hasn’t been done before, it cannot be done now. I was the first consultant to be hired in an all-male group, not because I was a woman, but because I provided unique value to a matter that was urgent and needed to be resolved in the best possible way. If you do not feel you are providing value, no one else will.