The Glass Ceiling Salary Trap – Part 2

The Glass Ceiling Salary Trap – Part 2

Mother and Daughter

It’s a strange little quirk that costs the average American female more than $1 million dollars over the course of her career.

Insurance companies already know something it took social scientists years to prove…

Men and women on average have different perceptions of risk.

Studies have shown that men tend to underestimate risk, often at their peril. They are more likely than women to crash a car, gamble, make questionable investments in the stock market, and participate in dangerous “extreme” sports.

Meanwhile, women have the opposite problem. They overestimate risk—playing it too safe.

Women Avoid Risk Too Much

It’s true that a woman is less likely than a man to base jump off the Eiffel Tower dressed in a SpongeBob costume.

However, a woman is also less likely to ask for something she deserves, stand up for herself, or attempt to negotiate a better deal.

In fact, one study conducted by Linda Babcock at Carnegie Mellon University showed fairly consistent results that men initiate negotiations to further their own interests 4 times as frequently as women.

Every time a woman gets up the nerve to ask for a pay raise, the average man has already asked for 4 pay raises. Every time a woman has the courage to ask for a promotion, the average man has already asked for 4 promotions. Every time a woman speaks up to get the credit she deserves for her work, 4 different men have already taken credit for it.

And because we get good at the things we practice, the average man is likely to be a better negotiator simply because he does it more frequently.

How do we Beat this Glass Ceiling Salary Trap?

Good lawyers know that the key to circumventing a rule is finding a single exception to that rule. Once you find that exception, no matter how small, then it’s just a matter of chipping away until the rule cracks at its weakest point.

And when it comes to the case of women’s fear of taking risks, there is one big fat exception.

This single exception turns women into fearless warriors, allowing them to take big risks—even crazy risks—that would otherwise seem impossible.

And if you’re a woman, you probably already know deep down what that exception is.

Studies have shown the that the one instance in which women readily engage in risky behavior is when they believe it’s necessary to protect a loved one.

We’ve all heard stories about the woman who jumps in front of a train, physically attacks a more powerful man, or performs some other superhuman feat in order to rescue a child.

This maternal instinct is ancient, powerful, and the best chance you have to flip the tables on a boss who thinks he can underpay you just because you’re too scared to ask for more.

The Most Dangerous Place in the World

There’s an old expression, “The most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her child.”

Glass Ceiling Salary Elephant







Perhaps the person who came up with that saying is the same person who took this picture of a mother elephant “negotiating” with a pack of hyenas who were bothering her little calf (you can see the little guy hiding behind her leg).

Men won’t get this, but most women who look at this picture will feel a tiny primordial flash of  white hot empathic rage in the pit of their stomach. They know exactly what that mother elephant will do to those hyenas if they hurt her little one.

When channeled properly, this protective instinct becomes a powerful negotiations tool.

What Would You Do?

Consider the following thought experiment from Linda Babcock’s brilliant book “Ask For It.”

Imagine that you have a fever  of 102 and you call your doctor to see if he can squeeze you in on short notice. The receptionist tells you the doctor is busy today and that you should try back tomorrow.

A temperature of 102 is bad, but not life threatening—you don’t mind waiting the extra day to see if it clears up on its own. You thank the receptionist and hang up politely.

Now imagine that your 3-year-old child has a fever of 102. This time when the receptionist tells you it’s not convenient to come in today, are you going to take that?

Hell no.

“Let me talk to the nurse,” you say firmly but politely. If the nurse doesn’t cave in, you’re going to ask for the doctor directly. And if he doesn’t budge, that’s when you start thinking of creative solutions.

Maybe you’ll offer to bring in lunch for the doctor so he can use that extra time to see your kid. Maybe you’ll ask for a referral, so he gets the message that he’s risking losing your long-term business if he doesn’t comply. Maybe you’ll even do what negotiators call a “fait accompli” close, and  just show up at his office with the baby.

What happened to the polite woman who was willing to wait a couple of days?

Her mindset shifted.

She is willing to fight because she has a will to fight. Military scientists have a name for this phenomenon. It’s called morale, and it’s considered a decisive factor in battle—whether it’s a fight between two individuals or a war between two nations.

Smashing Glass Ceiling Salary Trap #2

It’s time to adopt a new mindset for all of your future negotiations.

You need to make yourself believe that when you negotiate, you’re actually fighting for the future of your child, your family, and your loved ones.

Every extra dollar you can claim for yourself now is an extra dollar for your family. It might mean college tuition for your future son, it might mean a life-saving operation for your elder parents, it might be a chance to send your niece to summer camp.

You need to get a vivid picture in your head of what you’re fighting for (whether it’s real or simply part of an imagined future, it does not matter).

Now take that picture in your head and make it bigger, brighter, and bolder. Imagine the way your child will look graduating from college, going on that school trip to Europe, or looking through the new telescope you can afford to buy her because you negotiated a higher salary.

Make clear in your mind what success looks like and sounds like.

What will it feel like when you take your husband on a much deserved vacation to the Caribbean? What will it sound like when your daughter is giggling with her friends at her dance recital because you could afford to pay for her ballet lessons.

Now think about your boss.

Are you going to let him take those things away from your family?

Or are you going to fight like a mother elephant and get the pay raise you deserve?

If you want to learn more, here’s a free clip from one of my salary negotiation seminars where I teach you how to get the upper hand on your boss.