In honor of Galentine’s Day this month, I’m doing a fun two-part series featuring the founders of Ask For It, a boutique consulting firm that strives to close the gender wage gap by working with companies, institutions, female entrepreneurs and individuals through trainings, workshops, and consulting. I actually had the chance to participate in one of their workshops this summer, and it was a total eye-opener. I’d always suspected my negotiation skills were terrible, but the event not only confirmed my worst fears—it gave me the tools to move forward by inspiring me to build on my strengths while addressing my weaknesses.

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Missy Lafferty and Alexandra Dickinson; Photo by Lydia Hudgens

Co-founders Alexandra Dickinson and Missy Lafferty were kind enough to do a little Q&A with me. This week, I’ve got Alex answering my questions. Stay tuned for Missy’s responses next week!

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Alexandra Dickinson

Why is salary negotiation such an important skill?

I love teaching people how to negotiate because it’s so learnable. What I mean by that is, it’s a skill that you can learn, practice, implement, and get results from—and you can make it work for you in almost any situation in work or in life. If you know some key concepts and how to prepare a strategy, you can get more of what you want, simply by having a conversation. Isn’t that incredible?

There’s another side to this, which applies to women in particular. Some might look at the gender wage gap and say, well, women don’t know how to negotiate and that’s why they’re paid less. That’s just not the case. A number of factors influence the wage gap, and researchers don’t even necessarily know what all of them are. Being a more effective negotiator is one way that you can improve your outcomes.  Since it’s within your control, why not make it work for you?

How can women improve their confidence when negotiating their salary?

Three important things a woman can do improve her confidence are doing the right research, going in with a strategy, and practicing in advance.

Research: Salary comparison websites are a great starting place, but challenge yourself to dig deeper. Consider asking friends or former colleagues who work in the same industry—who you have a high degree of trust in—to share their salaries (or a ballpark figure) to give you a sense of what’s realistic. The more credible knowledge you have, the stronger the case you can make for yourself. And don’t just ask your female friends, either. Since men typically make more than women, when women ask women and men ask men, the wage gap persists.

Strategize: Spend some time writing down your plan. Decide what your bottom line is and commit to not taking less. More importantly, decide what your aspiration value is (pro tip: aim higher than you think!) and then hold yourself accountable by sharing that number with someone you trust.

Practice: Get someone close to you to role-play your upcoming negotiation scenario with you. Arm your practice counterpart with as many objections as you can imagine. Practice makes perfect, and actually speaking out loud is more effective than just rehearsing in your head.

What advice would you give a woman thinking of starting her own company?

Think big. And then think bigger. Map out the vision and you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

What are your favorite foods to eat while working?

Mealtime is always a great time of day. I try to avoid snacking so I like to have a hot lunch that keeps me going—at least until cocktail hour! I typically eat leftovers from whatever I made for dinner the night before.

If I don’t have anything on hand, my go-to pantry-staples dish is spicy sesame noodles. In a large mixing bowl, I put a tablespoon of tahini (or peanut butter, in a pinch), soy sauce, and spicy chili oil. Meanwhile, I boil a handful of buckwheat soba noodles and add a ladleful of the starchy water to the sauce to thin it out. The noodles cook in just a minute or two, and then I toss them with the sauce to combine. I finish the dish with some shredded cucumber, scallions cut at a steep angle (the cut is called horse’s ears) and a dash of black sesame seeds. It’s quick to make and even quicker to devour!

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Ask For It has an upcoming webinar on February 24th and will also be presenting a workshop at the Lady Project Summit in March. For more information about events, visit their events page. You can read more about working with Ask For It on their website.

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