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As women, we are usually taught not to negotiate when it comes to our salaries. But isn’t it time we realised our worth and fought for it?
Recently I decided to move to the corporate world after being an independent consultant for years. I had time on my hands and wanted some structure and purpose to the day. Social interactions and discussions at the workplace would also boost my mood, I thought.
Very soon, I found an advert posted by my former mentor who was now the director of a multinational health chain. The interview process went smoothly. Both the director and HR asked me my salary expectations.
There I made my first mistake. I told them how much I made as a part time consultant but made no mention of my expectations from the present assignment.
The manager from HR called the next day, asking for my last drawn salary slip. I had a difficult time explaining how I had not drawn a salary but was consulting on a fee sharing basis.
So, I explained as best as I could about the number of clients I see in a day. However, I could see he was unfamiliar with the freelancer’s world. He insisted on my furnishing my IT returns form which I did.
There I made my second mistake. I realised I had been foolish and this would affect my present pay package. And I was right. The next day, he called up, upbeat and gave me a ball-park dismal figure and very confidently said he’d mail the offer letter along with the joining date. He just presumed I would join in without any approbation.
I was furious! How can one compare a part-time job with a full-time one? It was the apples versus oranges story all over again. Did my experience, strong clientele and skills not factor in at all when they decided the package?
And then, I went back down the memory lane as it often happens to me. ‘Akka, how many people in the house? Veg or non-veg? Any dogs? Can I come see the house? Dusting also? Bathrooms?’ I was reminded of the many house-help interviews I was supposed to take but got upstaged by their probing questions, instead.
One of them factored in the tiny nine square-foot store room and the nine square-foot puja room as separate rooms! ‘Eight rooms- 4000, akka! Four bathrooms – 1200. Vessels – only one tub, akka, 800. No washing, akka. Only drying. No baby clothes. And no working on Sunday and festival day akka. Salary has to be given on the first of the month. I have to give chit fun. Oh and akka, one month bonus for Diwali next month.’
I was amused and in awe of her mathematical ingenuity and the casual confidence with with she negotiated. Only later did I learn that she had factored in her husband’s medical expenses and children’s education to drive a hard bargain.
I forced myself to the one sided conversation with the HR manager. Whether it was his cocksure attitude or my sudden realisation that I deserved more, I am not sure. But I told him I wanted some time to mull over that offer. He sounded genuinely surprised.
True, I had no loans or EMI’s or child or geriatric responsibilities that probably influence women not to negotiate for fear of losing the offer. But the location was far and fuel had to be paid for. I also factored in the compensation of the cook I might have to hire and the PPE kit I’d need while dealing with clients.
So, I did my math afresh and summoned my courage remembering my maid’s self assuredness all the while. I did hesitate. They might think I were greedy, they might think I was arrogant or ungrateful, but not once did I think I was undeserving.
I called up the HR manager, gave him the figure I had in mind. And also the little self conscious speech about how I felt undervalued and their pay package not being motivating enough. I felt genuine relief after. At least I wont resent myself later for not trying to negotiate. An uneducated but street smart woman taught me this life lesson.
I heard back from them with a revised offer which I accepted. As women it is ingrained in us that we will be rewarded for our hard work. We shouldn’t ask, be it the totalling error in our marks card or the starting salary during the campus interview.
Men, many a time, negotiate better and are paid better than their female counterparts in all industries. This might create resentment among women workers and also hamper their productivity.
Women hold themselves guilty for maternity leave or a break taken to look after sick parents or in laws. They work harder at their jobs always trying to prove the naysayers wrong. Managers need not overlook the break in their careers but treat it as a pause.
If managers put their trust in women and treat them fairly, they will find them loyal, resilient, empathetic and committed to the betterment of the organisation.
Picture credits: Photo by Jopwell from Pexels
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