Michelle Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

Dr. Fleming encouraged female students to not be afraid to ask for salary raises in her lecture, titled "Thank You, Next Offer: Salary Negotiations for Women."

March 22, 2019

Can I Get a Raise? ‘Thank You, Next Offer’ Event Advises Women on How to Ask For More

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“Women are four to eight times less likely than men to negotiate their salaries, leading to losses of $1-10 million over their lifetimes.”

Former Cornell senior lecturer Dr. Susan Fleming unpacked her statement in her guest lecture “Thank You, Next Offer: Salary Negotiations for Women.” As a seasoned professional in finance analytics — she’s worked at Morgan Stanley & Co., served as Vice President at Insurance Partners Advisors, L.P., and was a partner at private equity fund — Fleming spoke from experience and expertise.

Fleming opened her lecture by detailing an experiment conducted by Carnegie Mellon researchers in which male and female students were told they would receive between three and ten dollars for playing a game of Boggle. At the end of the game, the researchers gave all the participants three dollars and asked if that amount was sufficient.

Men were nine times more likely than women to ask for more money — a phenomenon Fleming attributes to systemic sociocultural disadvantages against women.

To break down the finances, Fleming showed that just one failure to negotiate for a 7.6 percent raise in salary could result in a $1.5 million difference over a 35-year career. Furthermore, this difference increases significantly if one also asks for an increase in their subsequent annual raises.

In a phone interview with The Sun, Fleming reflected on her career and her experiences being an individual from a minority group in her workplace.

“You had to be very thick-skinned. You had to not mind profanity, off-color comments … things today that would certainly be considered sexual harassment that I didn’t even think about then,” she said. “[I faced] commentary about my appearance, probably meant to be a compliment, but was very inappropriate.”

This “locker-room” culture, along with the lack of women in authority on Wall Street, inspired her pivotal dedication to researching and lecturing about gender bias.

“I had a great experience overall, and I moved up [in my career], but in order to do that I had to be willing to fit in with the guys and ignore a lot of behavior and bias that was surrounding me,” she said.

After receiving a Ph.D. from the SC Johnson School of Management, Fleming became a lecturer in the School of Hotel Administration and taught courses such as “Women in Leadership” and “Entrepreneurial Management,” among others.

Fleming admitted that not once did she negotiate her salary during her 12 years on Wall Street, nor did she even consider it an opportunity available to her.

“Women are socialized to not negotiate on their own behalf,” Fleming explained. “Women are systematically socialized to be other-oriented, to not self promote, to not be self-interested or seek power. Our society holds such deep-seated biases about what the ‘appropriate woman’ is like.”

The second portion of the lecture was an instructive guide on negotiating a job offer. According to Fleming, there are three important numbers to keep in mind when going into a negotiation.

The first is the BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or what the employee would do if they chose to reject the standing salary offer. In other words, it’s the highest-paying alternative employment offer that they’ve received.

The second is the reservation point, or point where the employee is indifferent between choosing to coming to an agreement and walking away.

The third and most important is the target, or the employee’s desired salary figure given information available about their field and what skills they bring to the table. Fleming recommended that negotiators should always aim to get as close to this number as possible.

“Be relentlessly positive,” Fleming said, explaining that women are more likely to be seen as more demanding and pushy when negotiating.

Changing your negotiation style to match that of the other party who you are negotiating with may also help, she added.

The most important factor for female employees is to know their own worth and the power that they have when coming to these negotiations and to refuse to accept less than what they know they deserve, Fleming said.

“Persist,” she said. “Learn about gender bias so that you understand how it may be affecting your interactions with others, and the way in which you are perceiving yourself and the opportunities you pursue. Fixing this is not all your responsibility. Fixing this is the responsibility of our society.”

The lecture was sponsored by Cornell Career Services, which provides assistance by helping students craft resumes, prepare for job interviews and develop career paths.