Oh, Ellen Pao. How badly I want to support you. You’ve probably heard about Ms. Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins. She’s now interim CEO for Reddit, and has ruled that salary negotiations are off the table for new employees.
Because women suck at negotiating. Or (even worse) if they’re GOOD at it… they’re ball busting bitches who are labeled “greedy”. When I first heard about all of this, I was angry. I mean really, truly pissed off. Now I’m just sad.
If you’ve paid any attention to me at all, you know I hate salary negotiations for simply for the sake of negotiation. That said, I have a healthy respect for a candidate who is willing to talk candidly about their worth, expectations, and can back up both with legitimate logic. In my recruiting career I’ve had tough negotiations with all kinds of candidates: young, old, male, female, even a transgender job seeker, once.
Some people are great at it, some people suck, and trust me – asshattery knows no gender bounds. I offer the same advice with situation specific tweaks to anyone who asks me how to negotiate come offer time. As a recruiter and advocate for my candidates, I go to bat for them trying to find that magic middle ground where both hiring manager and future employee are happy. I want people to succeed. I want my candidates to feel like they’ve WON.
Ellen Pao, you’re taking that away from them.
Fighting Feminism: Don’t Lower the Bar. Clear It.
As a kid, I was not an athletic child. I was usually chosen last in schoolyard picks, and once spectacularly lost a kickball game for my team. The runner who came after me whizzed past me standing on second base because I forgot I was supposed to run too.
But this one time… oh this one magnificent field day in elementary school….I won something.
It was the high jump – remember that event? A bar is incrementally raised, while kids run and try to launch themselves over it, usually backwards, landing on a mat on the other side.
As one of the smallest kids in my class, I was generally not very good at this.That’s assuming I didn’t trip over my own shoelaces on my run up to the bar.
I’ll never forget this one field day – I was on fire. I not only made every jump, I won the event! I beat out all the other kids in my class and took home a ribbon. No one had to lower the bar for me. And it felt glorious.
Of course, this runs contrary to a point Pao made in the same interview:
“Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate. So as part of our recruiting process, we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”
As the mother of two very strong girls, this statement about the state of feminism makes me want to cry.
Here’s a novel idea – how about we stop penalizing women when they do negotiate?
Imagine if I’d been told “Amy, you really can’t jump that high, and when you try you look silly. So we’re just going to lower the bar for everybody.” How would that make me feel? How would I have learned anything, or experienced the euphoria of winning?
Bottom line, I want my girls to feel empowered, not protected. Ellen Pao as a hero of feminism? I think not – how about a REAL feminist, the great Susan B. Anthony herself who said:
“I do not demand equal pay for any women save those who do equal work in value. Scorn to be coddled by your employers; make them understand that you are in their service as workers, not as women.”
Can I get an amen?
About the Author: Amy Ala is a staffing consultant & talent sourcer for Microsoft, where she supports the hardware division as a member of Microsoft’s in-house talent acquisition team.
Amy has over a decade of recruiting experience, starting her career in agency recruiting running a desk for companies like Spherion, Act One and the Lucas Group before making the move in-house, where she has held strategic talent roles for the State of Washington’s WorkSource employment program and Zones, an IT product and services hub.