Empowering women through salary negotiations


On Tuesday, October 1st, the University of Michigan-Dearborn held an ‘AAUW Start Smart Salary Negotiations’ workshop. The seminar was open to all, but addressed specific issues facing female professionals in the workplace. Facilitators worked to empower participants by teaching: the long-term consequences of the gender pay gap, how to articulate your value, how to benchmark a target salary, and how to negotiate your wage. 

Participants of the workshop were educated on the gender pay gap, which is defined as the difference in men’s and women’s median earnings. Research done by The National Women’s Law Center found that women lose about $418,800 over a 40-year career, compared with white men. Negotiation was found to be one of the best skills for women to use to close this gap. 

Articulating one’s worth is the first step towards negotiation. It includes an assessment of one’s education, work experience, and skills, the skeleton of a resume. Participants were encouraged to create value statements that included a specific skill which helped a specific accomplishment. They can also be used as comprehensive bargaining chips to negotiate. Value statements were used to compare against various job qualifications. If you’re asking for a job, a raise, a promotion, you need to be prepared to answer why.

Creating a benchmark for yourself includes market research such as identifying your desired median annual salary, including your personal value and your budget and perks of a job. Researching similar jobs in the area can help narrow the range and give you a clear picture on what to bargain for. This includes what to say when asked about salary expectations, as well as history- let’s learn more about the job first, then talk about the compensation.

Strategy then comes into play, simply by thinking about what you want to say to your current or future employer. Deflection was also another topic discussed, which is used when an employer may try to pressure you into answering without certainty. This includes what to say when asked about salary expectations as well as history – let’s learn more about the job first, then talk about the compensation. 

Participants were encouraged to practice with each other with useful roleplays. One would act as an employee and was given a target salary to work towards. The other would act as an employer and was given a range of salaries to offer. Facilitators encouraged a dialogue between participants, allowing the conversation to extend and participants to learn. 

What were the major takeaways from the workshop?

Emily Ehrheart, workshop participant and student said: “what you’re given is what you deal with, and that asking for more can make you seem greedy. Now I know that it’s ok to negotiate, its ok to ask for more.”

Nadine Ali, another workshop participant and student who is graduating in December and will soon begin her job search said: “It’s ok to negotiate…it’s a conversation to grow from.” She took the seminar to learn how to negotiate and help her succeed in her future career. 

This begs the question, is the University of Michigan-Dearborn doing enough to support its female students?

“This seminar was very beneficial, but this is a large-scale issue,” says Ehrheart, “It’s a good start, but there is room for improvement.”

 Ali added that she thought the University was doing enough, it was just a matter of advertising. “Unless you know someone involved, you might miss the information. They just need to do more to get the word out.”

The Gender Pay Gap is unlikely to go away on its own, but workshops like this are the best way to help the next generation of students create a better working environment. Teaching students important skills, like negotiation, is a shining example of how the University of Michigan- Dearborn is working to support its female students and prepare them for the modern workforce. It would be heartening to see more students take advantage of this offer and develop their professional skills.

Interested but missed the workshop? Keep your eyes peeled for the next one, which will be announced closer to the day of the Winter Career Fair!