Don’t Be “Cheap” – Negotiate Your Worth

As October rolls around, it’s bonus negotiation time for many of my clients in financial services. While the rest of us look forward to a slow change to autumnal foliage, women in these performance-pay based industries are gearing up for what Sarah Dudney,  an entrepreneur and city talent expert, describes as “one big bun-fight for financial recognition”.

Even if you are not in these industries,  there are lessons for all of us who negotiate our financial worth – i.e. every working woman worth her salt! As female breadwinners, pay is all the more important since we are bringing home a significant if not majority stake of the family income. Making sure you are getting paid your worth isn’t just about you – it’s about your kids, your partner and in these days of increased eldercare, everyone else who relies on your financial support.

It’s imperative that you get every pound you are worth, and in this economy, no one is going to give you more than you demand. I was recently asked to discount my speaking rate for a large British company, one with whom I’m willing to bet most of us have accounts.  They explained budgets were tight – so could I reduce my fee? While I was willing to negotiate on a few aspects, I stuck to my price for three reasons.

The first is that the more frequently I agree to ‘work for less’, the more I must accept the demoralising notion that I am ‘worth less’ – an idea savvy career women can’t abide. Secondly, it sends a great big karmic message out to the world that I don’t mean what I say and that the price I quote is not a price I believe in, again not a reputation I want among my clients. The third reason is simple congruence; how can I convince my female audiences to respect their worth if I consistently drop my fee? Sure I held my breath, knowing that my holding firm to my price might cost me the job. But in the end they didn’t quibble and I have been asked to kick off their new women in leadership programme.

In the City, October and even November will be set aside for a great big wash of testosterone-fuelled chest beating among men who want to demonstrate why they are the most important contributor to their team – and hence worthy of a fat bonus cheque. In fact, as one city insider says: “Men in the City think about their bonus numbers more than sex”.

However, as I discuss in my new book Female Breadwinners: How They Make Relationships Work and Why They are the Future of the Modern Workforce,  I challenge organisations that want to retain their top female talent to address the performance-related pay gap with transparency. In fact Theresa May has recently called for organisations to submit to voluntary pay audits to ensure any pay gap is assessed with complete transparency – a move I applaud. This will remind everyone that it’s results, and not your willingness to out-macho the guys through bragging and back-room deals, that counts.

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