Calling on confidence

Get ready for International Women’s Day with a crash course in negotiating


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The website for International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on Tuesday, extends an invitation to imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. It also asks readers to think about a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2022 (267 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The website for International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on Tuesday, extends an invitation to imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. It also asks readers to think about a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

However, the dream of pay and workplace equity for women is still a challenge, even in a hot job market. One key barrier is the fact that many women are not confident in negotiating the best salary and work terms for themselves. In fact, Joanne Zuk, a specialist in women’s negotiation strategies, says the reason she focuses on negotiation training for women is that she was shocked and frustrated by watching smart and highly qualified women fail to negotiate effectively for the salary and benefits they deserve in their new job.

This situation is especially unfortunate because the cumulative benefit of negotiating just 10 per cent more salary with every job change could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a career. The obvious benefits are higher salaries, but negotiations can also include non-monetary benefits like flexibility, remote work, childcare costs, education costs, and access to mentorship or other employee development programs. By not negotiating, women are missing opportunities to progress in their careers as quickly as they could.

SUPPLIED Joanne Zuk, who has coached and mentored women for over 10 years, has identified four key stages to effective negotiating.

Zuk has coached and mentored women through negotiations for over 10 years. Based on her experience, there are three key factors limiting women’s skills and confidence in negotiation. First of all, negotiation resources tend to be biased toward men’s experiences, like business programs that emphasize developing the skill of empathy. However, women tend to be more collaborative by nature. Their challenge isn’t empathy, it’s confidence.

Secondly, Zuk suggests that most women aren’t ever taught how to harness their strengths and overcome the common blind spots that impact their ability to negotiate effectively. They either avoid negotiation entirely or give in and make far too many concessions.

Finally, the insidious application of stereotypical beliefs about women must be taken into account as women prepare to negotiate.

Over the past year, Zuk has developed and implemented a series of online negotiation courses for women that focus on overcoming blind spots and low self-worth when engaging in a negotiation process. Her programs reinforce the concept that negotiation happens every day, and women need to start normalizing negotiation — whether it is for a new job, positioning oneself to be appointed to a new project or for entrepreneurs negotiating on a project or buying from a vendor. Negotiation is a core skill that can support women throughout their careers, their businesses and in their personal lives. In her programs, Zuk identifies four key stages of effective negotiation.

1. Preparation. Zuk emphasizes the importance of in-depth preparation before the negotiation happens. This means identifying goals and objectively assessing what is possible and legitimate. Women tend to limit their focus to the minimum rather than considering everything else that could be on the table. Preparation also involves considering the point of view of the other party. What is their perspective? What will they be looking for? What is important to them and where is there some common ground? How will they feel about your priorities and what response might you anticipate? What will your next response be? Thinking about and planning for all of these discussion elements is important to overall preparation and to try to limit surprises.

2. Discovery. Next, the negotiator enters into a process Zuk refers to as discovery, where the two parties talk about key priorities. This discovery stage enables women to use their well-known secret weapons — enhanced ability to demonstrate empathy and apply skilful listening. In fact, in many cases listening will be more important than talking because negotiating is all about a back-and-forth exchange, discussion and an evaluation of each person’s priorities. Empathy and effective listening help to shift tensions that arise and to ensure people on both sides of the table genuinely hear what is being said. All in all, empathy and listening are key to identifying an alignment of values and priorities, which are required to move the negotiation toward a win-win conclusion.

3. Active negotiation. This is the problem-solving phase where a job offer is discussed and responded to, and priorities and preferences are traded back and forth. Doing the preparation to understand one’s priorities and explore what specific concessions could be offered provides a strong grounding, encourages confidence, and helps move things to a timely conclusion. Walking away with the most important benefits is the goal. For many women, this can feel uncomfortable. However, this part of the process is really about coming to an agreement that both parties feel good about.

4. Confirmation. While the negotiation process might have gone well and conclusions are verbally agreed to, memories have a tendency to fade quickly and an interpretation today might be different the next day. Unfortunately, women tend to trust the other party to follow up with documentation and to accurately reflect final agreements. Don’t! Instead, follow that old adage to get it in writing, because this final critical step in the agreement is often the juncture where things fall apart. So, when the updated job offer is finally shared, make sure all of your agreed-to terms are documented before you sign the offer.

Advancing equality for women and girls has moved forward over the past 100-plus years but there is still a long way to go. Organizations must apply the process of job evaluation, pay transparency and pay equity to ensure that women’s contributions are equally valued and compensated. In today’s world of strong competition for talented employees, now is the time to review your salary and compensation systems.

In addition, universities, colleges and private training vendors need to ensure programs that cover negotiation skills reflect gender-based differences and teach female participants how to use their strengths in reaching a successful negotiated agreement. Normalizing women’s negotiation experiences will assist the next generation of women to be more confident in themselves and have the skills to negotiate the salary increases they deserve at each step of their career.

Source: To learn more about Joanne Zuk’s negotiation training programs for women, please visit

Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, B.Ed., M.Ed., CCP is an author, radio personality and executive coach. She can be reached at

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