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How My Dad Taught Me to Fight for Equal Pay
When I was five years old, my father took me to a meeting with Mayor Dianne Feinstein, the first female Mayor of San Francisco. My father, a real estate developer, was negotiating a deal to build a hotel. I sat quietly with my crayons and coloring book, observing as the two negotiated their agreement.
My father taught me a great deal after that meeting with Mayor Feinstein. I’ve applied these lessons many times, including when I fought for equal pay twice (and won).
At the start of my career, every time I spoke with my father, he’d ask me, “Are you the CEO yet?” As a petulant 21-year-old striving to find my footing in the world, I’d roll my eyes and brush him off. Becoming the CEO of a company was never something we had agreed to or negotiated. In retrospect, it’s almost humorous that we hadn’t.
Growing up, he engaged with me in negotiations on things such as payment for chores, like collecting snails out of his garden or cleaning the cupboards. He also made me sign a contract for college negotiating living arrangements, grades, and tuition payments.
Over the years, my father taught me three principles:
- Negotiation is win-win.
- Everything is negotiable.
- Think outside of the existing offer and terms.
I’ve used these principles to negotiate turning a signing bonus into my leadership development. I’ve negotiated my budget. I’ve even negotiated the terms for my success; who I reported to, who reported to me, and how my success would be measured. His principles gave me the courage to fight for what has been my most profound negotiation: equal pay.
I was on maternity leave when my boss was optimized. That’s a fancy word for "fired." One day after I returned from maternity leave, I was asked to take on another team. Two weeks later, another. I was now managing three teams. A male colleague took on one additional team and received compensation for doing so. I, on the other hand, received nothing.
This led me to ask my new manager and HR if they would increase my compensation for taking on two additional teams. I was met with silence. I did my homework and found the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which changed the statute of limitations for equal pay.
I called HR and said, “My lack of compensation for the two additional teams in relation to my male colleague’s compensation is a Lilly Ledbetter Issue. Every time you (under)pay me, the statute of limitations starts over. What do you want to do about it?” They increased my level, my pay, and gave me back pay.
How did I achieve this? I used the negotiation lessons I learned from my father.
Lesson 1: Power Positioning.
Most striking about my father were his belief and vision. He believed he could do something long before it actually happened. This confidence in himself set him up to succeed in negotiations because he came from a position of power.
I could overcome my fear of speaking up on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act violation because I knew I was coming from a position of power.
[Related: 5 Negotiation Mistakes That Trip Women Up]
Lesson 2: Do Your Homework.
After understanding the position of the party you are negotiating with, come up with different scenarios that would be beneficial to all parties. Know your BATNA and be willing to walk away. Sometimes the best thing to do in a negotiation is to walk away.
In fighting for equal pay, I knew my BATNA was to either quit or seek outside counsel. Neither option was good for my employer, who had reduced the number of leaders from six to two. At the time, there was no head of department, and the two leaders remaining (my male colleague and myself) were not only managing more teams, but sharing interim department head responsibilities.
Lesson 3: Be Humble and Do Not Minimize Yourself.
Most people want to be heard and valued. Seek to understand the other party’s position. What is behind their position? Create solutions that are good for you and the other party. Take your ego out of the deal and determine how you can be helpful in the situation. If you put "helping" first, you are more likely to come to an agreement.
Separate issues from people and focus on interests. If you do that, you can generate options that are win-win.
[Related: 5 Ways to Get More From Your Year-End Review]
Bonus: The Golden Lesson.
Perhaps the most important lesson my dad taught me about negotiation is to never squander the opportunity you're given. My father believed that while you can't control the outcome, you can control the effort and preparation you put in. This attitude, coupled with never giving up, has given me the mindset to walk through fear and face it. The rewards on the other side of fear are priceless.
One such reward came not too long ago when my family was dropping me off at the airport for a business trip. My seven-year-old daughter looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, are you the CEO of your company?”
I said, “Yes.”
Her response: “When I grow I up, I’m going to be a CEO.”
Katica Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and co-founder of Denver-based Pipeline, a SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap.
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Katica Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap. Synopsis As CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline, Katica enables businesses to realize capital and cultural improvements in the workplace. An award-winning business leader with over two decades of experience in technology, healthcare and financial services, Katica... Continue Reading
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