Negotiation: the tool women can harness to earn more and pay less
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By Dominique Bowen
It’s time, if you’re a woman, to unleash your secret negotiating power and harness it for your financial freedom. That could mean advocating for a salary increase, or haggling with your insurer for better premiums. Whichever form it takes for you, put it into practice and start enjoying the rewards of deciding not only where your money comes and goes, but how much, too.
Statistically, women are less likely to initiate salary negotiations in the workplace compared with men, and according to a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it can be attributed to, among other factors, a fear of social backlash. It makes sense: in many cultures, girls are taught to prioritise the welfare of others, to maintain relationships, and to be accommodating. In her own practice, career coach Judith Matthis observes another possible reason: women often don’t acknowledge or express their worth. “This plays out in resisting or avoiding asking for a promotion or a new role,” she says.
Other recent data suggests that women do ask for a raise as often as men do, but aren’t as successful. The reason? It could be the approach we take. Findings from a US study showed that female executives performed better than their male counterparts when bargaining for the compensation of someone they had mentored. Researchers suggested that women had a better sense of freedom to negotiate more aggressively, and perhaps less fear about their perception in the workplace, knowing that they were advocating for others. So, the power is within us, but needs to be harnessed for our own good, too – not only that of others.
Harnessing your power
“Generally we are far less likely to be given that raise or promotion if we don’t ask for it directly,” says Matthis, explaining the importance of preparing well for a negotiation. “Most of my clients who work through their fears, anxieties and resistance to asking, and then plan well for the discussion, have positive results when they do have those courageous conversations.”
Matthis outlines some key steps to negotiating to reach a positive outcome:
- Know what you are asking for, and why – and be clear when presenting this to your manager. “Avoid making it about your personal needs, for example, ‘I can’t afford to buy the car I want on my current salary’. Rather focus on why the business will benefit from investing in you,” says Matthis.
- Be clear about the benefits you are offering your employer in exchange for the increase or promotion.
- Be prepared to reach a middle ground that will still satisfy your request, but may be measured based on your performance or targets reached. “Work out where you are willing to compromise,” says Matthis.
- There will be areas where you aren’t willing to compromise. Be confident in this, and prepare alternative options that allow for career growth and fair compensation.
Ask more, pay less
“Female consumers statistically are the ones that spend the most on the wellbeing of family members, so it is critical to negotiate with your different insurers on at least an annual basis,” says Deirdrie Grové, director of Status Insurance Brokers. “Most short-term insurers give special discounts to women. For example, female drivers would have a slightly lower motor vehicle insurance premium. Being married or living together with a partner also lowers your overall premium score,” she says.
Partnering with an insurance broker is a smart move to put you in the power seat. They can get to know you and understand your risk cover needs. Grové labours the importance of demonstrating your consumer savviness, as your broker is likely to go the extra mile to negotiate better premiums on your behalf.
Can you get discounts on all cover?
The short answer is ‘not really’. Short-term cover has the most room for negotiation. A key advantage is that cover can easily be removed and added back on to your policy if your financial situation changes.
Long-term cover is a bit trickier, with more administration and health assessments required if you were to reduce your cover and then ask for it to be added back on. Grové says that if your medical condition worsens during the time your cover was reduced, you may not be able to get back into the position you were previously in. “With a newly diagnosed condition, your premiums will increase,” she says. Do find out if your insurer has affordable benefits tailored to women, too. “Some have products designed for women, especially taking female cancer benefits into account,” says Grové.
Medical schemes are probably the most rigid when it comes to premiums; the only feasible way to reduce your spend here is to downgrade your option. Weigh up the pros and cons of this, because you never know when a medical emergency can strike and result in financial turmoil for you and your family if the right level of cover isn’t in place.