Knowledge Is PowerApril 21, 2008
I was intrigued by an e-mail to attend the first annual Negotiations Challenge at Clarkson, sponsored by the AAUW. The training session was very informative but comfortably informal. I was encouraged to participate, and I felt that the student panel that prepared the material was very approachable and open to questions about the negotiations research. Group activities were a very fitting forum for learning about negotiation skills and the true causes of the pay gap between men and women.
Toward the end of the training session, I was apprehensive about continuing with the process because of all the work handed to the participants on such short notice. There was a paper to write, a book to read, a pitch to prepare, and the contemplation of how to answer questions that the interviewer might ask in response to my request. I talked to one of the directors, Mary Graham, and she gave me the confidence not to give up. Mary suggested I just place a time limit on each assignment and complete it to the best of my ability given the allotted amount of time. This technique worked very well and made the tasks seem less overwhelming with my already full school schedule. I came to realize that I had nothing to lose and only knowledge (and money!) to gain.
When I arrived at the competition, the large room seemed intimidating. We moved into smaller groups gathered around a table. I was the first to give a pitch in my group, and the intimate setting of my peers being so close with all eyes on me was very nerve-racking. Others took their turns, and in the end another woman in my group and I were chosen as finalists. Our pitches were well thought out but not memorized. I planned the topics I wanted to cover but didn’t remember what I wanted to say word for word, because I wanted my speech to sound natural. When it was my turn to go up on stage I was nearly shaking because I knew that my first request was going to be denied and there would be a tough rebuttal. Making it through that experience built confidence and was very rewarding. I now know I have the knowledge and power to negotiate my salary with my next employer.
Note: The author of this post, Lisa, recently won the “Negotiations U” contest as part of an AAUW Campus Action Project at Clarkson University in New York. One of seven 2007–2008 Campus Action Project grant awardees, the Clarkson University project on building effective negotiation skills among women was based on recommendations from AAUW’s Behind the Pay Gap research report.