Equal Pay Day Epic FAIL

Apr 12 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Today is Equal Pay Day, marking the date to which a woman who started work on Jan 1 2010 would have to work in order to earn the same amount of money as a man who also started work on Jan 1 2010 but stopped working on Dec 31 2010. That's over 3 extra months, and I am not into that!

It's been known for pretty much ever that women make significantly less than men in comparable jobs, and it's also generally accepted that at least part of the discrepancy is because women simply don't negotiate as often as men do.

I like to think that I am one to stand up for myself, and with respect to my recent acceptance of a faculty position, let me just say that I negotiated THE SHIT out of my startup package (full post on this another day). I pushed hard for equipment, space, personnel, teaching reductions, and my chair accordingly pushed hard on the Dean on my behalf. In the end, I got what I think is a great startup and I absolutely can't wait to get going.

The one thing that I did not negotiate at all, though, was my salary, and I am totally kicking myself over it. Now, the salary is more than what the first institution was offering and the summer salary setup was favorable, but still, I should have at least tried. And you know why I didn't? I FELT BAD. I felt like the chair was already bending over backwards to try to get me everything I wanted and it was turning into this unprecedentedly large startup for the department, and that it would seem greedy or petty or something for me to ask for more money for myself. Seriously, WTF is wrong with me? I'm the new poster child for Women Don't Ask.

It being early spring and all, my guess is that there's a lot of negotiating going on for those of you fielding faculty offers. At least, there had better be! Ladies, do not follow my lead on this one; learn from my mistake. Look that chair in the eye and ask for an upgrade--they will not rescind their offer, the worst they can say is that it's not doable. Let's get those 3 months back, shall we?

18 responses so far

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    Do you have what you need to be successful/get off to a great start?--okay, then your negotiating skills were not lax-nor are you a poster child for 'Women Don't Ask'. If you had rolled over and not fought for your start-up, it might be different.

    At MRU, the salaries are all determined by the BOR of my state. Therefore there was *no* negotiation of that magical number. I did negotiate to have my 12th month paid for (we have an 11-month hard salary).

  • Dr 29 says:

    Thanks for writing this! Even though I have yet to get an offer I was thinking about how I could negotiate my salary or benefits, shall I get that coveted staff position I want. This got me thinking, how do I negotiate and by how much. If everything is great and dandy on the moving package (if any) and health and benefits side ... how does one negotiate a salary? I looked at the NIH payscales as a guide, and from that I know that I couldn't possibly even consider being paid less than 42-43K ... which brings about the question of how far you go in the negotiation without sounding like an ass? Do you start by saying, hey, I know the payscale says I should be paid somewhere around 43K, but I'd really like to be paid 46 or 45, or 50 ... how do you know how much is fair and how much the prospective employer is willing to take? I've heard that once the employer has his/her eyes set on you, you have some wiggle room and you can ask for a few things within reason ... I just have no clue of what's reasonable. Since I've never done this ... I've never negotiated anything in my life, and like you say regarding the Dean ... you know, you've asked of him/her do help you setting up more of this or that ... how does one approach the salary issue on top of all the things one has asked before. It's all a bit confusing and honestly, terrifying, from my POV.

    Congrats again on getting the position. Can't wait until things are in place and you can report back on how the lab pimping went ;-).

    • Dr Becca says:

      Do you start by saying, hey, I know the payscale says I should be paid somewhere around 43K, but I'd really like to be paid 46 or 45, or 50 .

      I think here is where you need a little support for your claim. If you think you're worth X, explain what extra qualities, expertise, etc, you're bringing to the position to warrant the raise. "I'd really like" will most likely get you nowhere.

  • RealSillyPutty says:

    I am in the exact same category as Dr. Becca with regard to being a poster child for Women Don't Ask. The negative result of not negotiating in the beginning is magnified with each cost-of-living increase, every raise and every promotion bonus because they are typically a percentage of your original salary. I'm a full professor making far less than others of my rank and only a little more than newly hired professors.

    If you get an offer, negotiate your salary now. No, you are not 'bad' to care about money (yes, people will think that you are bad to get the highest salary you can, and, again, they are wrong).

    That said, I have never shied away from getting money to fund my lab, and was steadily funded from 1988 til this year..somehow i don't mind being a ruthless animal in this realm! what is that about?

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I saw on another blog discussion of a fairly carefully done study which found that on average women in academia were paid 6.9% less that men. If so, the situation in academia is better than the situation in the nation as a whole. Perhaps you should have negotiated for an additional 6.9% salary. Salary negotiation is very different at different institutions, so not knowing the situation, it is hard to say if it would have been good to do.

  • [...] for a Penis Dr. Beccca-Equal Pay Day Epic FAIL GrrlScientist-Penis Parity [...]

  • Namnezia says:

    I asked when I was first offered a faculty job, and the chair basically said that unless I had a counter offer with a higher salary there was zero chance that the administrati0n would agree to increase that number. I asked him to try anyway, and of course he was right.

  • Yagotta B. Kidding says:

    Don't overlook the group effect: a lot of guys (who? me?) don't negotiate for shit either. As in, never.

    But you see, for us it's cool because our union (you know, the Y) does it for us so we don't have to. Having recently been involved in the sausage grinder of hiring two women and one man for our department, I've seen the "twice as good to get paid half as much" machinery far closer up than is good for my self-respect.

    And no, this isn't my usual handle for the obvious reason.

  • MZ says:

    As a full professor with an offer at another MRU, I am just putting the finishing touches on the salary and start-up negotiations. I last did this back in the Pleistocene, so it was truly instructive to feel *exactly* the way Dr Becca describes as we were discussing salary. Suddenly I felt like it was embarrassing to discuss it, even with the person (the Dean) in charge of it. Weird.

    My advice is similar to what others alluded to -- you don't just say "gee, that's not enough money, I want more", you have information, preferably paired with leverage, about why a particular amount is reasonable. In my case, of course, it was easier because I have a salary now that can be used for comparison, but I got a bigger raise over what they had initially offered by doing some calculations about my future earnings and pointing out that at their offer, I would end up behind after 10 years. What could they do, I asked. The Dean came back with what was frankly more than I'd have asked for if I had flat out made a counter-offer.

    The other thing I did was find out the current salaries of other full profs in the dept I'd be going in to. This is not hard to do for all public institutions; it should be available online, and if you have someone you feel comfortable with at the place you're negotiating with, you can ask them privately to send you the link. I did that too. Everyone recognizes that we want this information, and it didn't seem at all weird to the person I asked (in fact if I recall correctly she offered first).

    I'm not sure where you get info on salaries at private institutions.

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    Do not feel bad, Becca. Academics usually have zero experience negotiating before getting that job offer. You don't negotiate in any serious way for a doctoral position salary, or post-doc salary. And before blogging, there were few venues for getting advice about what was negotiable.

    If anyone ever meets me at a conference, I'll be happy to tell you a few negotiation horror stories.

    You did a lot better than me, Becca!

  • FrauTech says:

    I did the same thing, but in the corporate world. I was so desperate for a job at the time (my last job was temp and was ending) and the new salary seemed like so much more than my temp job I was happy to take it. Right after I started I got comments from HR and my boss that led me to believe I had been lowballed. Like RealSillyPutty said that really magnifies over time.

    I think Mr. Kidding is on to something when he says men don't negotiate either. I've seen it here watching them hire people. If a woman asks for more they make snide comments about how she's asking for too much, or too demanding. And I've seen my manager go out of his way to get more money for a guy he's bringing on who didn't even ask for it. Maybe it's because they're better able to empathize with a guy, so they make the leap of "oh *I* would want more than that". The only advice I can give is to be a squeaky wheel and ready to move on to other opportunities to fix the sitution. Also the fun part of working twice as hard to get the same reward. I had an advantage in that my boss always had my back but disadvantage that those above his head did not necessarily. And when someone puts in for a raise for you, they really have to go to bat for you. And it can be incredibly risky for them. I'm not sure what the equivalent chain of command is in academia but just wanted to add don't feel bad for what you couldn't have known when you started. And don't feel bad when you know someone's really pulling for you on everything else and you want to negotiate salary too. That's just the way the world works. Will they hold it against you more than they would a dude? Probably, but I'm beginning to think being a b@#$ might be worth it in the end.

  • You did fine, Becca. The startup package is more important to your long term success than your salary in the end (as long as you can live on your salary). Yes, salary is important to your long term financial planning, and yes you should be paid what you are worth, but negotiating sucks and is awkward. It is even harder when you don't have a good back up plan (like an existing job). I know several people who didn't negotiate a single thing, so don't feel bad if you got what you need to be successful in your new position.

    I negotiated my initial salary offer up quite a bit (which is probably due to my unusual circumstance). First, I was coming from a staff position at National Lab, and had to take a big paycut to move to academia. I wanted to take less of a paycut than the initial offer, which was a pretty reasonable request, given that I had a lot more experience than a typical postdoc. Second, I had competing offers, one of which was higher in salary than the one I eventually accepted at Prodigal U, so the chair had two pieces of hard data to take to the Dean.

    For people currently entertaining offers, I do think it is important to ask, but you need to have facts to give to your chair (like I think I should be paid more because of this extra experience I have, or this data regarding average salary, or this other offer, etc). In my experience, the chair will be understanding even if they say no. If the chair is a jerk about this, or if they pull the offer just for asking (as long as you aren't an asshat about it), then you dodged a bullet in not going there.

  • r says:

    looking forward to a post about negotiating your start-up (or how you went about thinking about it). I'm still a post-doc, but hopefully will deal with that someday. Seems like quite a black box right now. thanks for sharing.

  • Ali says:

    I'm with the above commenter-- please do give the details of just how you go about negotiating. A script, if you will. That information would be so valuable to understanding the process better.

  • eliquide says:

    Superbe information que je m'empresse de faire suivre a mes amis

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