Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped towards women. The working class, which used to define our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy — women dominate today's colleges and professional schools (for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same); of the 15 job categories projected to grow in North America in the next decade, all but two are occupied primarily by women.
And it's about time.
The post-recession economy is no longer dependent on the strength or size of men. Instead, companies are looking for social intelligence, open communication, and focus — attributes that are predominately female. So ladies, what are you waiting for?
The recession has revealed, if not accelerated, a profound economic shift that sees women dominating the workplace. And it's not just happening in small companies; according to Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations at Google, women are far more likely to be promoted within Google…provided they stand up and ask for recognition. "When a man nominates himself for a promotion, he has some certain percentage of getting through the nomination process. But when a woman does she gets promoted almost every single time." Bock's advice to women: "For God's sake, nominate yourself for a promotion. Because you're holding yourselves back!"
Which begs the question — why aren't more women asking for recognition?
The challenge for women isn't only that we're reluctant to ask for a promotion. The other issue is that both men and women expect women to negotiate differently than men. Luckily, planning and research can help give women the confidence they need to get what they deserve. Here are some quick pointers:
1) Be proactive
If we can learn anything from Bock's interview, it's that women who ask for a promotion, get it (often more so than men). If you believe you deserve a raise, ask for it. Don't sit around and wait for someone to notice. Instead, take a proactive approach and assess your skills based on their market value. While you're at it, take the time to figure out what you're worth. Websites like GetRaised.com show women how much they could be making, based on an extensive database of market-based compensation research. According to Matt Wallaert, the site's lead scientist, GetRaised has helped tens of thousands of people prepare for workplace negotiations. On average, the site's users receive a raise of close to $7,000.
2) Don't apologize
Women tend to be naturally self-conscious when it comes to negotiating a salary increase or promotion. Whereas men often approach the discussion from an emotionally detached stance, women can be extremely tentative, timid and polite. In fact, according to Tina Brown, the editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, women often start to apologize with their body language before they even open their mouths. Follow that up with an opening line like, "I don't know if this is possible…" or "I hate to do this, but…" and it's easy to see why women are passed over. So don't be sorry; instead, be more self aware. Think highly of your skills and go after what you deserve.
3) Tailor your request
When it comes to asking for a promotion, consider framing your request in terms of why it makes sense for the organization or the person you're trying to persuade. Instead of explaining why you deserve the raise and job title directly, focus on how your advancement will benefit the company as a whole. "At the highest level, there is a real difference, and the business runs better when there are more women," explains Bock. When it comes to asking for a promotion, clearly articulate why your leadership style matters and how your knowledge will affect change in your organization.
4) Always lean forward
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke passionately about empowered women at the 2011 IGNITION Conference in New York, notably instructing female executives to always "lean forward" in their careers. According to Sandberg, men always lean forward, no matter where they're going, while women more often lean back (consider the ones standing around the boardroom rather than digging in and sitting at the table). Consciously hanging back in your career is a huge mistake; if you're not careful, Sandberg explains, the person leaning in "will one day be your boss."
5) It's better to ask questions than permission
It's up to you to grab an opportunity when you see it. Whether it's asking for a raise or taking on more responsibilities at work, sometimes the best way to make an impression is to stick your neck out. Don't be afraid to ask difficult questions and stick to your guns. No reward ever came without risk, so why are you playing it safe? Blaze a path and demand attention by accomplishing everything you said you would — and more.
Get on it
When it comes to asking for a raise, remember: those who ask are more likely to receive. Don't let insecurity stand in the way of your career aspirations. Do as Bock recommends and nominate yourself for a promotion today. In all likelihood, you should have asked for it sooner.
GoldenGirlFinance.ca is a free personal finance and education site for women.