We Could All Do Better at Negotiating Salary

Recently, I was invited to the FUND Inclusion Austin 2019 conference by Huston-Tillotson’s CEO and president, Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette. She was part of a one-hour panel discussion, “Inclusion: Does it Matter?” Oh, I wasn’t about to miss this!

I’d first heard Dr. Pierce Burnette at SMWATX 2018, when she participated in a panel  discussion about different generations of women in the workplace.  As my notes filled with her quotes, I knew she’d deliver the perfect keynote for Get Smart 2018, the Women Communicators of Austin’s conference I was chairing that following October. That year’s theme? “Power Up!”

Dr. Pierce Burnette is an eloquent speaker, especially when discussing her belief in education as the great equalizer. Great–so who were the other members of the FUNDATX panel?

Women2Women Tour panelists on stage at FUNDATX 2019
Left to right: Sarah Chamberlain, Dr. Oksana Malysheva, Sara T Brand, Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, and Mary Flanagan. Photo Credit: Leah Fisher Nyfeler
  • Dr. Oksana Malysheva, CEO and managing partner of Sputnik ATX, an Austin-based accelerator (Malysheva also delivered a keynote later in the day);
  • Sara T Brand, founding general partner of True Wealth Ventures, which invests in female entrepreneurs;
  • Mary Flanagan, president of HERdacity, a nonprofit that connects women to leadership opportunities;
  • and Sarah Chamberlain, moderator, who is the founder and CEO of the Women2Women Tour, which is “dedicated to engaging women across in the country in discussions about shared concerns and goals.”

I was glad I’d gone. The discussion was lively, and there were many inspiring, informative takeaways–especially concerning negotiating salary. The gender pay gap is real and, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, at current course and speed, wages won’t equalize until 2059. Right now, full-time working women make 80 cents for every dollar earned by full-time working men (read “Womansplaining the Pay Gap” by Maya Salam for sources and more information).

We could all do a better job when it comes to working the big(ger) bucks. Here are my top take-aways from that Women2Women panel.

Quick Tips for Negotiating Like a Boss

Quote from Sara T Brand: Sure, you need the most likely plan; but paint the vision."

Visualize the “big picture.” For example, who are your dream partners? Sure, Brand  says, being realistic about money needs is important when talking to investors but dreaming about the future can “help push the brain farther to the right” and help with expanding expectations

Did you know that women are actually better negotiators than men when negotiating on behalf of someone else? “So turn that around,” advises Brand. Mentally reframe that salary negotiation as benefitting your partner, children, or other loved ones.

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette: "Fight the inclination to say 'are you sure?'"

Many of us approach salary negotiations with fear. Dr. Pierce Burnette points out that “fear is false expectations appearing real.” A lot of those scary expectations center around rejection. Take a deep breath, examine your behind-the-scenes insecurities, and then set them aside. Ask confidently–and don’t question whether you’re really worth the pay you’re offered. You are!

Quote from Dr. Oksana Malysheva: Flip the story...take being the only woman in the room as a superpower

Malysheva, whose Ph.D. is in physics, has experience being surrounded by male colleagues. Women need to learn to set the bar higher, she says. Practice negotiating–role play with friends, trusted people Malysheva calls “your kitchen Cabinet.” For guidance on how to bargain, Malysheva recommends Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator, and Tahl Raz.

“Dig for strengths inside [your company] and build alliances,” Malysheva advises. Women working together get much farther than working alone. . . or against one another.

Mary Flanagan quote: "Always have the 'ask for more money' data"

Just as your business operates with a board of directors, Flanagan recommends creating a “personal BOD.” These navigators can be trusted to provide direction, pump the brakes, encourage acceleration, and steer decisions. And just as you’d prepare a BOD report, do the appropriate research when running ideas. Knowing facts and comparisons can help you set the appropriate bar.

And, as Flanagan says, avoid the trap of undervaluing yourself: “Ask for more.”

Sarah Chamberlain quote: "Every Business issue is a woman's issue."


“Equal pay elevates all families,” says Chamberlain.

And we could all do better.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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