Negotiating as a Woman of Color in TechFeatured
Confessions from someone who supports Women of Color in leveling up their leadership and ability to negotiate their value: I DIDN’T negotiate my first two salaried jobs.I didn’t even make an attempt. I was just so grateful for each job opportunity, because I truly believed they were, “taking a chance on me since I’m so inexperienced.” I always framed it that way for myself.When I finally got the courage to negotiate my next role at a new company, I bombed it completely and ended up at almost the exact same pay from my previous role with much more responsibility. The mistake I made was honestly sharing my exact current pay, instead of pivoting to say I did not want to disclose my existing pay and would rather focus on how they value the right candidate (this is totally acceptable, a fact I didn’t know before).I failed to dream big enough for myself and completely undervalued my worth. There came a point where I realized not negotiating was foolish, and I felt confident because I had learned more about what to do and what not to do. I was excited to negotiate the crap out of my raise in my upcoming annual review, and was told by peers that 7% was the most anyone ever got. So my “ambitious” plan was to negotiate 20% in hopes that I would get talked down to 15%. What ended up happening was I was given a 25% increase! Plus a promotion in title and more equity, which I didn’t even think of including. Can you imagine if I spoke and said my number first?I’ve gotten way better over the years, of course. Still, I often reflect on how being at the intersections of gender and race as a woman of color influenced how I showed up in compensation conversations early in my career.In interviews with other women of color, through client conversations, and my own life experience, it’s clear WOCs experience common challenges with asserting their worth and negotiating their starting salaries, subsequent raises, or going after leadership roles. We often share our personal stories with regret for not negotiating with confidence or not attempting to negotiate at all.Where does this come from? The connections vary from overall being raised to be submissive in the white patriarchy culture, to having a memory witnessing their mothers being “traditional and submissive,” that directly influence their negotiation challenges.It wasn’t uncommon to discuss negotiation fails and hear phrases like:“I just didn’t want to look ungrateful if I asked for more, so I didn’t.”“It was a take whatever they can give you situation, because I wasn’t fully qualified for the role.”“I think it comes from being raised to not be disrespectful to authority.”“I was just grateful to even have my foot in the door.”The one thing I can confidently say to anyone who can relate to these statements and beliefs is: Sis, it’s not your fault.I had to recognize to be self-compassionate that it wasn’t my fault either. No one taught me how to negotiate confidently (or what confidence even was). I had no education or mentorship growing up on how to know and own my worth. I had no idea that negotiations could be continuous conversations. It never occurred to me that I could walk away from a bad deal that was below what I believed I was worth and market value research I did.My mom was an incredible matriarch and a no-nonsense business woman, and I know I was fortunate to have other strong woman figures in my life. My guess is that as the daughter of immigrants and growing up in Filipino and Asian communities, there was a cultural experience I grew up in that ingrained in me the habits to, “respect your elders/authority figures” and “keep your head down, stay humble.” It makes sense this translated into challenges with negotiations or navigating difficult conversations and relationships in the workplace.How did I overcome this? First and foremost, I recognized and drilled it down internally that these habits and mindsets were really not doing me any service. They were literally holding me back from tens of thousands of dollars! They were also stopping me from being confident in my authentic leadership and making the real impact I wanted to make at work.Being in tech sales certainly helped me in learning negotiations, although it is always easier to negotiate for a product or service than for yourself. Also, it was helpful to read lots of books and online articles, as well as practicing with friends.The most important “secret weapons” of all is to practice unraveling the things that hold you back internally to practice being in action despite all your worries.Years of therapy, coaching, workshops and research helped me unravel and show up in a way that was authentic to me. This was my path to start negotiating like nobody’s business, and does not necessarily yours.If you’d like to “fast track” unraveling because you have a negotiation coming up, here are a few examples and simple steps you can take to get there.First, things I had to unravel that you might need to unravel, too:The reasons why I gave into any sort of submission when it came to my compensation and livelihood.All of the fixed mindsets that held me back and kept me playing small.All the fear of getting a big fat NO or of losing an opportunity all together.Here’s a simple two-step exercise to start unraveling today:- Write down a list of all your negative, inner critic, self-sabotaging thoughts. Get really specific. No matter how messed up that inner voice is, put it on paper. - Then next to each point, write a new reframed possibility. Reframing is a powerful exercise and tool to open up to positive alternatives and change how we feel emotionally about a situation.Examples:Negative self-talk: “I don’t have enough experience to do this job” → Reframe: “I have enough experience to be qualified and for what I don’t know, I’m a quick learner and will use my scrappiness to find a solution to a problem.”Negative self-talk: “They’re going to think I’m greedy and ungrateful and retract the offer if I ask for more.” → Reframe: “I am grateful for this opportunity and will express my gratitude. They gave me the initial offer because I am the right person for the job, and I deserve to be compensated for my value and the hard work. ”Negative self-talk: “They’ll think I’m too aggressive and get turned off.”→ Reframe: “I’m not being aggressive, I am being confident and direct that I’d like X compensation and will invite them to work together on my package so we can start good work together”The point of “unraveling” is to be intentional about understanding and moving past all your internal blockers, so that you can better face the external challenges (re: the actual act of negotiating).A few extra tips I’d like to leave you with to be a badass WOC negotiator:Show compassion to yourself because these types of critical conversations are super scary and stressful no matter who you are. Because you want to be compensated in a meaningful way.Be comfortable with talking about why you are worth X amount of money and benefits. Practice role playing with a friend or saying your desired number in front of the mirror a million times.Be okay with drawing a hard line on what you absolutely will not take and what you will. I tell clients all the time that ultimately, if you’re in a position to wait for a better opportunity, the best negotiation ace up your sleeve is to be willing to walk away.Let me be real with you, negotiating your worth is hard and will surely be uncomfortable. But negotiations is truly the gift that keeps on giving and pays you back more than staying quiet and in your comfort zone ever will, and I promise you it gets easier the more you do it.Start betting on yourself, your value and your future.--Nadia De Ala is a certified Leadership & Negotiations Coach. She helps busy, creative Women of Color in Tech level up their relationships, influence and money, so they create the empowered and free lives they really want. In the grand scheme of things, she believes in the ripple effect of her 1-on-1 and group coaching work. To help WOCs grow their confidence, leadership presence and embrace negotiations’ transformational possibilities, is to help close the leadership and wage gap in tech, one badass WOC leader at a time!This September, she's launching her next 8-week group virtual coaching program "Badass WOC Negotiators." Find out more about it here.