On Race and Gender

Negotiation carries risk. And that risk can be greater for some than for others.

Why it matters

Multiple studies have shown that women are less likely than men to negotiate their job offers.


For anyone, negotiating comes with a risk. There is always a chance that, if you negotiate, your offer will be rescinded. But the “social cost” of negotiation has actually been proven to be higher for women than for men. One series of studies even showed that women who negotiate for themselves can end up being less liked by prospective employers. So this risk might feel -- and actually be -- even greater for you simply because of societal biases.


Still, there is a race- and gender-driven wage gap in the U.S. And that gap has a lifelong compounding effect. So, especially for women and underrepresented minorities, if you don’t negotiate, it’s almost certain that you won’t get what you’re worth. It’s a catch-22 of sorts. You can be penalized if you negotiate, and can be underpaid if you don’t.


What’s your way out of this conundrum?

Well, successful offerletter.io clients represent extraordinarily diverse backgrounds. And 98% of all offerletter.io clients have achieved an increase by negotiating for it (yes, really!).




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(By the way. This chapter is so important, it's available to everyone. But if you haven't yet, now's the time to go Premium to be sure you have access to the complete Playbook.)

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The Playbook in action: Priya’s story.

Why it matters

While negotiating for what you’re worth might carry added risk for women, offerletter.io’s Playbook has worked for real women.


“Priya” (not her real name) is an extremely experienced senior engineer. She's highly competent -- great degrees, good performance reviews, etc.


Priya got an offer from a young startup. She was asked to be the most senior engineer on the team. After doing the math and checking in with her network, she found she was being undervalued on the equity side relative to the company's position. She asked -- nicely, over email -- for meaningfully more equity. The initial raise came back to...well...not-that-much. She repeated her ask. Rescinding the offer, the company responded: ‘I don't think we will come to an agreement on the value. Maybe we can work together in the future.’




A year later, Priya is again looking for a new gig. With advice from offerletter.io, here’s what Priya does differently this time around:

  1. She sets a timeline.
    With a clear deadline in place, she allows herself space to seek out, receive, and fully consider her offers.

  2. She gets two good offers.
    With only one offer in hand previously, Priya was asking for what she was worth in a vacuum. All she could say was, ‘I feel this is what I’m worth. I feel this will value me fairly.’ With two good offers on the table, Priya can point to what the market is bringing her: ‘X Company is offering me Y. I love what you’re doing, Company A, so is there any way we can revisit the offer?’

  3. She stays true to herself.
    Even while I push for a harder line to aggressively negotiate for more, Priya stays true to what feels authentic to her. In addition to using the “I-We” tactic, she chooses  to be more flowery in praise of the company:  ‘I read this coverage of you doing x and love that. I really want to be part of what you’re doing. How can we make this work?’


This might sound like a lot, but most of the right stuff happened over two emails. In the end, Priya gets what she’s worth -- including a $50,000 signing bonus -- and she gets to work for a new company she cares about, and starts off on the right foot with her new team. She's been very happy at this gig for a couple of years. Very happy :smile:

Ready to learn the secrets these happy clients already know?

There's so much more to learn. Get the whole Playbook to get the full course in negotiation, with videos, scripts, the equity calculator, and more. It'll help you get what you are worth.

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The three practices you need to know.

Why it matters

By strategically managing the process and your perceived position within it, you can minimize your risk and come out on top.


Control your timeline.

Because it's well-documented that women get penalized disproportionately for negotiating in certain self-assertive contexts, controlling time to get counteroffers is highly important. It removes from you the burden of doing the asking (“I want X...”), and shifts it to the market (“This is what I’m seeing right now...”).


Note that while this approach might be helpful when negotiating an offer for a new role, it has been shown to actually not work when seeking to negotiate an increased package for an existing role.


Use the “I-We” or “relational” approach

As described by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, as well as by HBR here, this approach has been proven to be especially effective for women, whom society implicitly expects to argue for the greater good.


Explain to your negotiating partner why your negotiating is a good thing -- for them. For example: in Sandberg’s case, when negotiating for her role as head of Facebook’s deal team, she stated, “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal team so you want me to be a good negotiator.” So, in this case, I am negotiating for myself and we benefit from this by placing a person in this role who is proven to be capable of negotiating deals.


Next, endeavor to demonstrate that you care to preserve organizational relationships. Again looking at Sandberg’s example, she stated, “This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.”


Another thing that I've personally found to work very well has been to talk about the long-term commitment. Stating up front that you want to be invested in the company for the long haul, and align incentives appropriately, goes a long way for tech companies that may otherwise deal with flighty job hoppers. In other words, when thinking about preserving organizational relationships, think both about the people you’re negotiating with and your relationship with the organization as a whole.

Be authentic

Whatever approach you choose, I can’t stress enough that your words and posture, as well as the position you choose to take, must be authentic to you. Your words, your ideal outcomes, your posture -- they have to reflect who you are as a person. If you negotiate with one personality and go to work with another, it may raise eyebrows.


Practice stating your position. As many times as it takes to be certain that it will come across naturally when the moment arrives. (Premium offerletter.io users, keep this in mind even as you study the scripts and video examples throughout the Playbook.)

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Two secrets that turn the tables in your favor.

Why it matters

Understanding your negotiating partner's position, including their motivations and areas open to flexibility, will boost your confidence and help you make the right moves.


Employers want to close the gap.

Massachusetts has passed a law barring employers from asking prospective employees to disclose their current or previous salaries. Why? The Governor explained that such a practice disproportionately impacted women. And, of course, Salesforce has made news for going to great lengths to close its gender pay gap.  Apple, Facebook, and nearly 30 other companies are working with the White House to do the close the gender pay gap on a grand scale.


Companies are starting to “get it.” So go into those negotiations confident that the tides are on your side.


What the “no negotiation” policy really means.

There is a growing trend among employers like Reddit to introduce a “no negotiation” policy, believing that the very idea of salary negotiation is a form of gender bias. Google claims it, Twitter has claimed it, Optimizely has claimed it. Again, it's impossible to trust. So you should start from the assumption, always, that negotiation is possible. (Really - customers have reported meaningful raises at Reddit, Google, Twitter...)


It's just impossible to trust employers here unless they are also fully transparent. Three things to keep in mind:

  1. "No negotiation" for salary doesn’t mean "no negotiation" for equity (even Reddit CEO Ellen Pao allowed equity negotiation).

  2. Even if equity is off the table, other intangibles like vacation days or other benefits may be negotiable. There's also, at least at bigger companies, enormous value in negotiating for better teams, higher-visibility projects, ideal start date, or a mentorship plan. In certain situations, you can gain enormous value from this kind of negotiating.

  3. I've also had clients negotiate for representation or visibility. One person I worked with wanted to represent the company at several conferences, and part of their pre-joining agreement was that they wanted to speak at three major conferences on behalf of the startup, fully paid for. They got it -- and it benefitted both sides.



No one said this stuff would be easy. But you’re ready to get what you’re worth. When you get the whole Playbook, you’ll get access to the advice, best practices, word-for-word scripts, and even video examples, to help you own this process every step of the way -- all the same secrets that have helped my clients get an average offer increase of $15,000 and a 30% bump in equity.

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