June 21, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Evidence mounts on the importance of a good sponsor. MBAs entering the work force with the recommendation of a strong advocate benefitted when negotiating compensation for starting salaries, a recent Catalyst study found.
Sadly, the research also demonstrates that the glass ceiling hurts – and is increasingly costly for women over the course of their career.
Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on equity and fairness for women in the business world, surveyed more than 4,000 MBA who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from different programs around the world. Women MBAs, on average, earned $4,600 less initially than their male counterparts. The data holds across industries.
Women start with lower salaries and have fewer opportunities to increase their earnings. Statistics for 2008, for example, saw promotions resulting in an extra 21 percent in compensation for men. Promotions for women during the same period netted them an additional 2 percent. Calculations conclude that over the course of a 40-year career, women lose more than $400,000 in salary.
That’s huge for the women and for their families.
"A lot of people just suggest that if we just give it time, the gender gap will go away, but we see if you give it time the gap gets wider," says Christine Silva, a research director at Catalyst.
The Catalyst study also found that having a sponsor widens the gender pay gap: strong sponsors who advocated during the job search benefitted male students more. The men’s mentors were collectively higher up the corporate ladder. As a result, their sponsors had more clout and impact on decisions like hiring and compensation. Men with strong mentors earned on average $9,260 more in starting salary than women with the same.
So what can you do?
Be tough. Be informed. Approach any salary negotiation with compensation information about the organization you’re talking with and about similar positions at other firms, advises Susan McTiernan, associate dean for graduate programs at Quinnipiac University School of Business.
Be realistic. Be savvy. Understand salary expectations before you begin negotiating so you’ll know when you’re being low-balled, advises Diana Bilimoria, Professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management.
Believe that you’re worth it. This is particularly important for women. Research by Deborah Kolb, Professor Emerita at Simmons College School of Management and author of Her Place at the Table: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiating the Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success, finds women less willing than men to negotiate for their own success. If you don’t ask for what you want, I guarantee you reduce the odds dramatically of getting it.
Try on new behaviors. Work with a coach to develop new skills if salary negotiations are new or hard for you. Enhance your capacities to present yourself with confidence and strong executive presence. Learn to present arguments persuasively – and role play with a trusted other to prepare for a range of responses from the individual you’ll face across the table. Develop skills in asking clearly and directly for what you need. Recognize a win-win is possible for all parties involved.
You’ll help yourself and your career by improving your skills in negotiation. You’ll also demonstrate the kind of leadership skills in doing so that warrant the salary you request.
 Brian Burnsed (2011). Business Schools Hope to Shatter Sturdy Glass Ceiling. U.S. News & World Report Online. June 15, 10:06 am ET.