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Why Young Women Need to Negotiate, Now

Why Young Women Need to Negotiate, Now

As a young woman in my early twenties I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing jobs and work with several intelligent, driven, and compassionate women who are making differences in the world in a variety of industries. As a result of my upbringing and the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, I believe learning certain skills early on helps us to take advantage of whatever opportunities come our way and to learn our value. We often think we’ll learn adeptness with age, which is true. However, if we don’t start advocating for ourselves at an early age, it will be more difficult to become proficient at doing this later in life, and consequently we may miss out on opportunities that come our way in the meantime.

My first full time job after college I did not negotiate. I was given, what I thought was, a generous offer and I accepted. Later that year I read an article that said if a person who is offered the same salary I was offered negotiates $5,000 more, that result in them making more than $150,000 more than me in a lifetime. I also learned, which was not surprising, that 49% of job candidates never negotiate for various reasons, and for graduating MBA students half of the men negotiated their salary compared to one eighth of the women. As millennials we know that our parents and generations before us worked hard to make our society more just and egalitarian, but that does not mean there is not still lots of work to be done.

Statistics aside, I’m an advocate of young women always negotiating to develop that skill as soon as possible. There are a variety of ways to negotiate; it does not only have to be with salary & benefits from a job offer. As we learned from Cher in Clueless there are many things in life that can be negotiated. To get practice, young women should start negotiating with people around them, like their roommates or parents, before taking on an employer. Once you get comfortable negotiating then you’ll already have an idea of what it entails when you get that job offer or when you are ready for a promotion. I’ve been negotiating since I was 5 years old, with my older siblings, my parents, even my friends. This has certainly served me well and helped me become more comfortable when negotiating job offers and other opportunities.

[Related: How to Negotiate for Success]

Here are five reasons why young women should negotiate:

The world will not change by itself. The world, specifically society, never has and never will change without people advocating for themselves and others. Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, The Anti-Apartheid Movement; all of these historical movements were created by and successful because of people who persevered and were bold in the face of ignorance and injustice.

Being bold is important. Often in work situations women who are assertive are told they are, or assumed to be, too “aggressive,” when in reality they are doing their job effectively and making strong decisions. Being bold allows us to be good leaders, take advantage of opportunities, and recognize our value.

Advocating for ourselves is advocating for all women. When women negotiate for themselves, especially in a job situation, they are negotiating for all women. Women get paid 77 cents to the dollar of men, so one more woman making as much as a man in the same position is increasing our average and going against the statistic. When you negotiate, other women will feel empowered to negotiate because they know its been done before. When young women negotiate we are creating a precedent for girls as well.

We will only get better with age. People who start negotiating at a young age become more comfortable with the process and become more confident in who they are. The more we negotiate, the more we find the most effective methods. A combination of being assertive, appreciative, self-assured, and presenting a good, well-researched argument.

We get enough negative messaging from the media, we need to build confidence. Often women are inundated with messaging from the media that tells us we are not pretty enough or don’t smell good enough, or generally that we are inadequate in some way. This increases low self-esteem and makes it harder for women and girls to believe in themselves and their abilities. One important aspect of negotiating is believing that you deserve whatever you’re asking for because you have worked for it and have valuable skills and abilities. Negotiating helps us young women build our professional confidence and believe in ourselves.  

[Related: My 8 Pieces Of Business And Money Advice For My Daughter]

Teju Adisa-Farrar is the Head of Engagement & Strategy at Recruiterbox as well as the Founder & Creative Director of World Unwrapped. Teju helps strategize around engagement, content, and other ways companies can become more people-focused in their approach.

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