Genders differ when talking money, book says


Negotiating your first salary can define your compensation structure for the rest of your IT career, and studies indicate that men are more likely to succeed in negotiating compensation than women.

In a book entitled, Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever contended that by failing to negotiate a first salary, an individual stands to lose over $500,000 by the age of 60; and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.

In one experiment the authors conducted, male and female students at Carnegie Mellon University were asked to participate in an exercise that involved playing the letters game, Boggle. Participants were told they would be paid between three dollars and $10 for taking part in the experiment. At the end of the exercise, each subject was handed out three dollars as payment. If the subject asked for more money, he or she was given $10.

The simple experiment revealed that nine times as many male as female subjects asked for more money. Although both genders complained about the compensation, the male subjects tended to “fix their unhappiness by asking for more.”

“The women who did not negotiate started out not just behind their male peers, but behind where they could and should have been. With every future raise predicated on the starting salary, they could be paying for not negotiating for a long time – perhaps for the rest of their careers,” read an excerpt from the book.

This is an observation that unfortunately, was a reality even for one very successful female IT professional.

As part of the founding management team at microprocessor developer Malleable Technologies, Telle Whitney thought she was handed, and accepted, a generous compensation offer, which includes stock ownership, at the time of her recruitment. Years later, she found out that her male co-founder owned significantly more company stocks than she did.

“So I asked him why he had more stocks than I did, and he replied, ‘You didn’t ask,'” narrated Whitney, who served as vice-president of Malleable Technologies until the company was acquired by Canadian firm PMC-Sierra in June 2000.

“Asking for what [one wants] is something that each of us can do but don’t,” said Whitney, who has dedicated her career in helping women in the IT profession attain their full potential, through the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology where she serves as president and CEO.

“No matter where you are in your career asking for what you want is important,” Whitney said. “For example, if you are ten years into your career and you realize that you want something different, asking can also be instrumental in making a change in your current job.”

Whitney was a keynote speaker at the Centre for Advanced Studies Conference (CASCON), held in Markham, Ont. last week. CASCON is sponsored by IBM Corp. and the National Research Council Canada.

The Anita Borg Institute is involved in various programs and workshops designed to “increase the impact of women in all aspects of technology and to increase the positive impact of technology on the world’s women.”

Whitney started down the IT path at the University of Utah where she received her undergraduate degree in Computer Science. She then moved on to pursue her PhD at California Institute of Technology.

Back then, Whitney was becoming more aware of the fact that there were only “a handful of women” studying Computer Science. And the story remained the same as she pursued her chosen career.

“It just got old after a while. My work life has been mostly around men, so having a network of professional women became important to me and they really served me well; they became my peer advisors,” explained Whitney.

This search led her to Anita Borg, a fellow computer scientist who shared Whitney’s quest for recognition of women in the computing industry. Together, Whitney and Borg founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Borg passed away in 2003 and Whitney continued to carry on the task they have started.

The Anita Borg Institute also focuses on providing women mentors and role models, which it believes can make a real difference in encouraging younger women to excel in their IT profession.

Such role models, Whitney said, could also affect how young girls perceived the IT profession. The drop in IT enrolment, she said, could be attributed to a general misconception that IT jobs were going away when in fact, the opposite was true.

Whitney also encourages women IT professionals to take a stand on programs that can make a change in their career and the future of their company. “[Women] often think that we are powerless. Often we have a good idea, and if we can promote it we can have much more of an impact than we realize,” Whitney said.

What was so important about having more women in computing? Whitney explained, “When you include people with a diverse set of perspectives in any definition, the resulting product will be much better.”

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