Recently, Marla, a 44-year-old writer, was discussing a story assignment with an editor with whom she hadn't yet worked. He mentioned a fee for the project and asked if it would do. Not wanting to poison a new relationship, Marla said yes. He again asked if the fee would do. "The fact that he asked again told me that I could (and should) have asked for more," says Marla, who is based in New Orleans.
Marla isn't alone in neglecting to ask for what she wants. In their book, Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (Princeton University Press, 2003), authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever report that many women simply don't ask for better job opportunities, higher salaries, promotions -- you name it. Instead, they're likely to accept what's offered.
Men are much more likely to speak up. Case in point: Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, noticed that men graduating with advanced degrees in public policy and management from the university received starting salaries that averaged $4,000 higher than those of female graduates. Examining the issue further, Babcock found that 57 percent of the men had actively negotiated their starting salaries, versus just seven percent of women.
As a result, women fall further behind long term. Babcock and Laschever cite startling statistics: Failing to negotiate your starting salary can mean a loss of income of $500,000 by the time you reach 60. That's because most raises are calculated as a percent of salary. A difference of just several thousand dollars in the salary of a college grad compounds over the decades.