Why Are Women Reluctant To Ask For What They Want In Business?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A little while back, a good friend and colleague of mine gave me some advice that I have carried with me since hearing it. She told me that women in business do themselves a disservice by not asking for what they want, and I should not be one of those women. Before I move on, let me give you a little context. 

My friend/colleague and I were discussing the actions of another colleague who was offered a lateral position at prestigious law firm. Although the position and accompanying salary were both fantastic, our colleague decided that she wanted more. She believed that her experience and expertise warranted a higher base salary than that which was offered. As such, she negotiated a higher salary, and a few additional perks. I was highly impressed! Mainly because at that point in my career, I could not imagine asking for higher salary or any perks from my employer.

As my friend/colleague and I discussed this woman with great admiration, she told me that our colleague did something that many women in business would not dare to do, and something that men do all the time; she evaluated her worth, and asked for commanded what she thought she deserved. She also told me that I should periodically review my expertise and value to ensure that I am being adequately compensated for my work. I remember thinking about my friend/colleague's statement and advice, and wholeheartedly agreeing. At that time, however, I was not completely comfortable commanding a salary and/or additional professional perks that I believe is commensurate with my experience and value, but I was determined to make strides to build up my comfort level. How did I do this? I started out by asking if I could attend certain professional conferences. I asked if I could be reimbursed for attending seminars to educate myself. Baby steps! The point here is that I, too, believe that us women do not always ask for what we want in business, and I was determined to do better. I am happy to report that I have made strides, but I am still a work in progress.

So why is it that women have a difficult time commanding what they want? Whether it be a promotion, or a pay raise, or reimbursement for a professional expense, I do not see many of my female colleagues commanding the things that they feel they deserve. I can, however, quickly think of at least 5 of my male colleagues who have done so...some on more than one occasion. So, what is it? Is it because we are afraid of rejection? Do we think that doing so would be out of line? Why are we so hesitant?

Here's where I need you ladies to chime in. Have any of you ever commanded something from your employer? If so, what was it, and what was your employer's response? What approach did you use? Please share! 

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