Sex and salary negotiations: no way out

Dr. Crazy hits it again and dares to talk about money.  (You’ll recall that she has bravely led us on the topic before.)  Specifically, she writes about her money–how much she makes, and how it stacks up against her peers:  “Now, when I did my negotiating, lo, those many years ago, I sort of felt like I didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I only ended up getting a bump of a grand to what they initially offered, and I felt like I was a bit silly even having bothered to ask. However, I now see how that bump has grown so man, any bump you can negotiate to your base is totally worth it.”  In the comments, we started talking about salary negotiation, and it called to mind my first experience with negotiations when I was offered my first tenure track job.  So, here’s the true story from the Historiann archives, with the actual numbers, although they embarrass me deeply.

angrymanphoneWhen I was offered my first tenure-track job in 1997, I was offered $32,000 a year plus moving expenses.  I thanked the chair of that department, and said I’d get back to him.  At that point I had taught at two different institutions for a year and a half total, so when I called him back the next day I asked for more money, pointing out truthfully that the offer he had tendered was $1,000 less than I had earned the previous year as a full-time lecturer when I was still ABD.  I had completed my Ph.D., and thought that my degree plus the experience merited consideration.  (Plus, who accepts an opening offer in what we all know is a negotiation?)  I can’t remember any longer what exactly the chair said, but his tone of voice and his mood indicated that he was irritated that I was asking for more money.  (Seriously–what did he expect?)  I was shocked that he seemed to be treating me in such a hostile manner–remember, I hadn’t accepted the job yet, so a rational and responsible department chair would be trying to talk me into taking the offer, not talking to me in a contemptuous fashion.  I remember distinctly saying, “Well, L., this is how the game is played, isn’t it?” to suggest that his agitation at my counter-request was out of place.  He then became obviously angry, and shouted into the phone, “This isn’t a game to me!”

You have to consider that at that moment, I was a soon-to-be unemployed 28 year-old, and L. was at least 15 years my senior, a tenured associate professor, and the chair of the department.  Of course, l’esprit de l’escalier suggests that the right response would have been, “Well with an opening offer of toy money like that, it sure looks like a game to me!”  Or more seriously, “You can’t talk to me like this.  I’m contacting the Dean to ask that he negotiate with me, or I’ll decline your offer and tell your colleagues exactly why.”  Or even better, “Please thank your colleagues for the job offer, but I can’t work with someone who responds like you did to a completely reasonable and predictable request.  Good luck with the next candidate on your list!”  Of course instead, I probably mumbled something of an apology and asked him to take my request to the Dean.  I can’t say for sure that my sex was instrumental to this chair’s angry reaction that I was negotiating salary–but I think it has to have been a big part of it.  (Remember that big ol’ persistent wage gap that Judith Bennett wrote about?  I think that’s both a cause and effect of her “patriarchal equilibrium” argument.)  

This is why, when Dr. Crazy suggested that there might be some successful “feminine” strategies for salary negotiation, I was skeptical.  Women who expect to be paid for their work are already violating gender norms in our society, so asking for more money–well, who do you think you are,  you greedy little b!tch?  L. never said that directly, but his conversations with me were suffused with that kind of attitude.  (This is also a man who the following year, when I told him I had won a nationally competitive fellowship and asked for a semester off to take it, he immediately started lecturing me that I really needed to “establish myself” as a teacher, and lectured me that I shouldn’t be away from home too long so that I didn’t neglect what he imagined were my domestic responsibilities.  Yeah, gender had a lot to do with how he treated me.  Class did too I think, but that’s a story for another day.)

Does it make the story funnier to know that the job I was offered was the line in American women’s history?  No?  I’m pretty sure that there was no appropriately “feminine” way that I could have approached the negotiation to make it go better.  The only thing I could have done differently would have been not to negotiate at all and just take what I was given like a good little girl, and I’m constitutionally incapable of that.  Besides, I’m a women’s historian who lectures all of the time about the appropriation and exploitation of women’s laborit seems like professional malfeasance to tolerate a wage gap even for myself.

In the end, the Dean gave me a $2,000 bump, and I took the job.  (Sadly, unemployment was my only other option!  A job I had interviewed for in Colorado Springs was in the end offered to someone else, who very smartly snapped it up.)  Unfortunately, that telephone conversation turned out to be a telling predictor of this guy’s style and his interactions with me over the next four years, and an accurate glimpse of how that department operated.  (I remember calling L. in early January my first year to ask if I could have my syllabi copied in a copy shop and get reimbursed for the expense, because I was stuck home 45 miles from the university in a snowstorm, and I didn’t think my syllabi would be copied in time to hand out on the first day of class the following week.  L. remained silent for a moment, and then asked, “what is it with you?  You’re always asking for special consideration!”  Yeah–selfish, selfish me!  The snowstorm all was my fault, and how dare I attempt to function like a professional and have my syllabi ready on the first day of classes?)  Looking back, I can see that he was a very inexperienced chair, and he was temperamentally unsuited to the job.  I no longer take it personally–although I did wonder for a while if he was a scheming Machiavellian who preferred another candidate and was hoping that I would turn down the offer.  That ended when I got to the university and saw quickly that he wasn’t clever enough or evil enough to be Machiavellian–he was just in a job over his head, probably depressed, and had anger management issues, of course.  But, still:  many times I have wished that I had just hit the “NOPE” button that afternoon in February, 1997!

What are your experiences with salary negotiations?  I admit that my pessimistic view of sex and salary negotiations are deeply colored by this one experience.  Readers, take it away!

0 thoughts on “Sex and salary negotiations: no way out

  1. I was hoping this discussion would continue!

    My experiences have been better, I think. When I taught as a part-timer, I quickly worked myself into a much better deal than most of the other part-timers. This was offered to me without my asking (by a male chair; I suspect I benefitted from the status of where I was doing my grad work). My first full time teaching job was a one year visiting position. I did not negotiate, because I didn’t have the nerve (thank god it was only a year position!, though I doubt I would have had much luck had I tried).

    When I was offered my current job, I was determined to at least *try* to negotiate. I argued that I deserved more $ because I had more relevant experience than your average new PhD. That got me a bit of a bump. I also gained in a few other areas (and I was told in what areas there was and was not flexibility). I did all my negotiations with the dean, who is both awesome and female. Several women here did much better than I did, largely because they had their degree for longer (and maybe because they were better negotiaters), and in one case possibly because she was actually advoated for by our new chair, who is also awesome and also female.

    So, I may have experienced sexism, though I didn’t perceive it as such (the chair that did not advocate at all for me, as far as I know, is another story. I don’t know if or how much of that was sexism). I did hear later that people heard that I drove a hard bargain, which struck me as odd (but makes feel a little proud), and some people do seem taken aback that I ask for things. That could reflect the sexism that you’re talking about. I do, however, feel very fortunate to be in a situation in which there are strong women in positions of power.


  2. Women in positions of power help, but they’re no guarantee, Life of a Fool. This is because women and men both absorb and internalize different cultural expectations for women and men.

    Since that first negotiating experience, I’ve been treated quite shabbily by a female chair (at my first job) and by a female dean, and I’ve also been treated well and had advocates in chairs of both sexes and deans of both sexes, too. I think it’s the sex of the employee, rather than the sex of the administrator, that is the crucial factor: women are supposed to just shut up and do volunteer work and be happy about it. Men are supposed to be successful, aggressive providers for themselves and their families. Women who are advocates for themselves are seen as self-serving or greedy in many cases, whereas the same language and behavior in men is considered appropriate, or even admirable. (In my experience.)

    Anyway–I’m glad you have had successful negotiations, and I’m also glad you stopped by to comment here.


  3. I did not negotiate at all and I have zero complaints. OPU’s salary system is structured very intelligently: without going into too much detail, the basic situation is such that it is in the interests of departments to ask for the highest possible salary level for individuals they hire or promote. In essence, the system here relies upon the dep’t to negotiate on behalf of the candidate, getting them the best possible deal — and we do. When I got my offer I was extremely happy: the salary was about 8K higher than what I had been making as a VAP, plus I was given moving expenses, two computers (home and office), research start-up funds for the first four years, and money towards a down payment on a home. The only request I made was some employment for SweetCliffie, who was given a guaranteed package of several adjunct classes for the first few years (which he later turned into a t-t.)

    OPU has its imperfections, but certain elements of administration here are actually quite rational.


  4. Sq., I’ve found that there is much more room to negotiate at a private university (my first job) than at a public university (my second and current job). Because public unis have to make salary information public, there generally is a lot less room on the salary, but you mention several off-the-books goodies that deans can offer new faculty: startup funds, computers, moving expenses, etc. (Downpayment on a home! That’s something I’ve only heard of at a few Ivies and the Cal schools.) I’d strongly encourage people to think about these items (and more) and ask for them in negotiations. I found out in moving to a big state uni that the dean had little flexibility with money, but a LOT of flexibility with research funds, library funds, and moving expenses. (Best of all, those are tax free income enhancements! But, they’re not in your base salary–that’s the downside.)

    You did negotiate something, even if you didn’t negotiate salary–a job for your husband! That’s an important quality of life thing that has real monetary value as well as intangible benefits.


  5. Wow — I am horrified by your story. One wonders how that department ever hired anybody (though they probably depend upon the desperation of the young and inexperienced).


  6. Salary negotiations are something that are still ahead of me, although I know someone who does amazing work, got several tenure-track offers at outstanding schools in her field, and was able to negotiate quite a bit for herself and her partner at a public university. But last summer, one of my dearest friends from college let me borrow a book called “Love is not enough: a smart woman’s guide to making (and keeping) money,” written by financial advisor Merryn Somerset Webb. I’m not sure it’s out in the US, yet. There’s an entire chapter on exactly what Dr. Crazy’s talking about. The author of the book said that men automatically negotiate the first offered salary while women often sit idly by; she attributed a lot of this to culture and how children are raised. If I remember correctly, she cited studies which have shown that girls are much more content with simple gifts like dolls etc. while boys actively demand (and then receive) the most expensive or impressive toy. (Obviously she’s generalizing.) Since there’s frequently a workplace culture of silence around money, the women (and men) who don’t negotiate have no idea that their salaries aren’t up to par with those who did negotiate. And while it might start out at a difference of a few thousand pounds/dollars or so, the difference quickly balloons since raises are a percentage of the pre-raise salary. She did a brief thought exercise in which potentially by the end of a man and a woman’s career, the man could be ahead a few hundred thousand pounds in total earnings, based on the difference of that starting salary alone, to say nothing of the fact that he likely continued to negotiate higher raises along the way.


  7. Historiann–

    I hope I’m not misunderstanding you, but I certainly encourage you (and all of us) not to consider the actual numbers of our current and past salaries as embarrassing (unless, of course, they are so low or high that they actually are embarrassing). The 34,000 you got, in 1997, was probably quite close to what I was getting in ’97 (I started in ’94 at 30,400, having been told by the chair that Moo Moo U had a step-scale and I was ineligible for any step but the very bottom rung. So I didn’t negotiate–my error, probably). In that sense, the numbers you quoted certainly did not seem embarrassingly low to me.

    News around here (in Pittsburgh) lately has run headlines essentially saying “if you want to make more than the Governor of the state as a state employee, one category for doing so is Professor!” Public discourses about educational salaries often give very much the wrong impression about the general run of faculty salaries, and rather than be embarrassed to recount the details, we probably ought to be more public about the reality.

    Women and men in this profession, I think, are encouraged not to think about the money as a motivating factor, and thus encouraged to find discussions of actual dollar amounts “distasteful” or “embarrassing” (class is a factor here, but gender probably does also have a double-whammy effect for women in the profession). But we all might usefully recall that what we do is work, not just a calling, and work is customarily rewarded by money.

    So I think we should all be willing to be up front about what we make. And even while I firmly believe it’s not my measure of my own worth, it may make sense to see my salary as my institution’s measure of my work’s worth–and I’m nowhere near the range of the Governor of Pennsylvania: I hope he works four times as hard as I do!


  8. GayProf–I was the fifth person they hired in that job between 1984 and 1997, and they had never tenured anyone in the line (most of us ran away screaming after a few years). It was a revolving door kind of place–unless you stayed to tenure, which means you got stuck halfway in the revolving door and were therefore beaten with every turn!

    I think they finally tenured somone in the American women’s history line, 24 years or so after it was established!

    thefrogprincess: I think it may be correct that women tend not to ask, but my experience suggests that it’s not just because of the way we’re raised. It’s because we’re punished when we ask to be paid something close to what we’re worth. I got screamed at but I got more money, I still think it was worth it, and I would hope that people wouldn’t use my story as an excuse not to negotiate. I’m just saying that the old line that “if women would only ask, they’d close the wage gap!!!” is too simplistic at best, and victim-blaming at worst. Everyone should negotiate, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that closing the wage gap is in our control as individuals.


  9. Tom–of course you are right. Academic salaries are much in the news here because ZOMG Ward Churchill was making $110,000 a year!!!! I don’t need to tell you that that’s a complete aberration among even full professors of the humanities in Colorado state schools. (Even among those with actual Ph.D.s, multiple books, and little things like NEH grants under their belts.)

    But you know me in RL: I’m not actually a b!tch (much), but someone who is very much paralyzed by both sex and class when it comes to talking about money. I suppose I should be proud that I won that extra $2,000, which over four years probably meant an extra $9-10K, besides putting me in a better position to negotiate my next salary.


  10. Historiann, absolutely. I don’t see negotiation issues as THE reason why there’s a wage gap. I could be wrong about this but my sense is that most people aren’t in jobs where negotiation can really happen. In those jobs, women are just stuck at whatever their employers choose to pay them. It’s pretty well known that a lot of employers are reluctant to hire women b/c they might get pregnant. Sadly my freshman year of college there was somebody in my circle of acquaintances who loudly and proudly proclaimed that he would never hire a woman b/c she’d get pregnant. My screaming at him did nothing but make me look hysterical, although he and I never had that conversation again b/c he knew better. Even when women negotiate, the culture of silence around salaries means that you never know if you’re at the level of your male colleagues. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that women who negotiated were still receiving less than their male counterparts.

    So this won’t solve a societal problem by any means. But it might be helpful for individuals to at least try.


  11. I think one of the other issues in salary disparities (which Crazy also mentions) is willingness to go on the job market. The people I know who have salaries far higher than their career-peers are people who go on the market as often as possible, get outside offers, and then play the two institutions off one another to see who bids the highest. I’ve seen this happen with my own departmental colleagues applying outside OPU, as well as with people we’ve interviewed who have then used us as a bargaining chip with their original institution.

    And here, as well, there *may* be a gender issue at stake. It’s my perception that men may be more willing to go on the market with absolutely no intention of actually leaving their current institution — they go on the market, interview, get offers, negotiate them up, and then ask for counter-offers that up their salaries. I can think of *many* male colleagues who successfully used this strategy — two of them for several years running, getting bumps in salary here at OPU each time. By contrast, I can only think of one woman doing this, one time.


  12. thefrogprincess–agreed!

    Sq.–interesting point. I’ve seen the same pattern you describe. This is where all kinds of assumptions about sex, mobility, and ambition may be at play. If a mid-career woman goes on the market (esp. if she admits that she has a husband or partner), will she get as many offers compared to her male peers because of the perception that she’s probably tied down where she is by her male partner’s work and life and probably won’t take the job, whereas her male colleagues partnered with women are presumed (rightly or wrongly) to be free to move and thus liklier to take a proffered job? If those men take those job offers to their deans, are the deans liklier to think they really have to make a good counter-offer, because they too believe that the male academics are freeer to move than their female counterparts? If a woman takes a job offer to her dean, will she get a lesser counter-offer because of that dean’s presumption (rightly or wrongly) that she probably won’t take the other job because of a husband or partner?

    I’m left wondering if women are just (once again!) less likely to be rewarded even if they engage in the same behavior.


  13. p.s. Alice’s recent experience interviewing as an Associate Professor suggests that women probably aren’t in fact recognized or rewarded equally for their accomplishments. (Then again, most of the war stories I’ve heard about people interviewing at the Associate or Full Prof. level are really weird, whether they’re from men or women candiates. I think senior hires bring out competitiveness and hostility in a department that isn’t there as much when departments are looking to hire a junior scholar.)


  14. I just started a new job here, moving from a teaching heavy (4/4) state school to a R1 flagship university, and giving up tenure along the way. I was so excited and grateful for the move up and out that I didn’t negotiate at all. I feel really foolish about it now since finding out that I was the only candidate the department was considering. If I hadn’t taken the job it is likely the search would have been scuttled. The worst part is that my new salary exactly matched my last salary on record. Both are public universities with open books. However, I’d gotten a raise that did not show up on the records which lagged behind a year. Gratitude and desperation and not wanting to start out on the wrong foot all worked to make me forget that this is a job not a favor. I am happy here and love my job, but let’s face it, money equals respect, and I wouldn’t mind a bit more respect.

    Sorry to hear about your experience at your first negotiation. It sounds a lot like the chair of my department at my old school without a Dean to intervene.


  15. new prof–don’t count yourself out yet. The good thing about public unis having the “black book” of salaries is that you can use that information to your benefit. My university has given people extra raises even without outside offers if they make a convincing case that they’re underpaid compared to their peers.

    I’d suggest that you read the “black book,” and take a look at what your peers are making. (Think about years since degree, teaching experience prior to the hire, fellowships and prizes, publication records, etc.) You should certainly feel free to note that you had been offered a raise at your previous institution that hadn’t yet shown up on the books, too. All of this information may be influential with your chair, and will give your chair ammo for approaching the dean for more money for you. (It’s probably a good thing to do this sooner rather than later, since people still probably feel all warm and fuzzy and proud of themselves for hiring you. It’s even better if you just got a book contract or a big article placed, or won a fellowship, to underscore your value to the institution.)

    Other readers have more experience than I, so perhaps they’ll advise you differently (or think of things I didn’t.)


  16. Historiann, if what you describe is true — e.g. deans and hiring committees being more accommodating to male than to female candidates, because of a perception that they are more moveable — it would be awfully ironic! You and I agree that (anecdotally at least) it’s the women applying to new positions who are more likely actually to be serious about moving, whereas men often apply elsewhere with little intention of moving, but rather, in order to get more goodies at their current position.


  17. Well, I can’t remember if I managed to get any extra money when I started. I think I didn’t. I was started at more than many of my colleagues in the Humanities, but since I came in on an accelerated track, I should really have pushed for more. Now that I know that a (female)colleague in the sciences with less experience than I was hired at the same scale, I’m sort of annoyed. However, having said that, my dean has made noises about working on bringing me up to where I should be in terms of my other colleagues. So far, I haven’t seen that SLAC is particularly bad in terms of gender parity (in income) — at least not in my College. But if you look at the campus as a whole, the schools dominated by male faculty also have the highest-paid faculty. In the sense that the College carries most of the UG teaching, and teaching is somewhat feminized in comparison to the ‘professions’, where the teaching loads are lower and research is required at a (slightly) higher level, I find this interesting. Actually, I find it interesting enough that I’m going to go blog about it.


  18. Sq.–I think that there are women and men who apply for other jobs for a variety of reasons. (But, I can completely accept your observation that men are more careerist, and women are more serious when going on the market.) I think it’s difficult to recruit someone mid-career of either sex, precisely because mid-career scholars are established already somewhere else, and they frequently have partners, children, friends, and lives flourishing where they are. I just think that hetero men benefit from a presumption that their careers are #1 and that the women (and children, if any) will follow, whereas I think heterosexual women with partners may be overlooked because people assume that their partners careers and interests will dictate where they live, so who knows how many job offers and raises they may miss out on?


  19. ADM–you’re right. Comparisons between the Engineering and Business schools and, for example, the Lib Arts college–well, there’s no comparison.

    I think what might distort the comparison at my uni is that the economists are in the Lib Arts college for some reason. Without them, our salary averages would be even lower!

    The argument is frequently made that well, “engineering and business skills have value outside of academia, whereas medieval Anglo-Saxonists? Not so much.” That’s part of it–but only part of it. This is how professions cope when women enter them in more than trivial numbers: they’re shunted into sub-specialties that pay less to begin with, but my sense is that when more women enter a sub-field, the gap widens over time. This is what’s happened with pediatrics, for example, versus surgery, cardiology, and opthamology (it’s the only female-majority medical subspecialty, with GPs not far behind.) Pediatrics was lower paid to begin with, since it’s “primary care” and not a surgical subspeciality, but I’d like to see the wage data on medical subspecialites over the past 40 years or so.

    I will be interested to read your post on this!


  20. (Downpayment on a home! That’s something I’ve only heard of at a few Ivies and the Cal schools.)

    Actually, something along those lines happened at Oakland University, a small public university in the Detroit area. A professor couple (both tenured) got the school to cover the purchase of a house for them, with the money to be paid back via a no-interest promissory note. It must be nice not to have to worry about down-payment money or paying interest on the mortgage

    I don’t think it was an appropriate use of public funds, but there wasn’t any uproar about it.


  21. Oh yes, I know that women in positions of power doesn’t guarantee anything, and the people in my current department whom I have perceived as being the most sexist have also been women. In my case, in my current department, they are women, but also (and yes, probably more importantly) very supportive. There are also interesting patterns about who is asked to do a lot of service — I am, but then so are several of my male colleagues. Some people definitely seem to be asked more (and/or say no less) than others, but it doesn’t seem to be a gender divide.

    And, I am not so optimistic or rosy-glassed or naive to think there aren’t problems of sexism in my university, but I think I have been fairly lucky in negotiating and with whom I’ve been negotiating.

    The question of who is more likely to apply elsewhere, and then who is more likely to move if offered a position, is interesting.


  22. I had a thoroughly freakish job offer once as well — in fact, it started before the interview. This corporate HR guy calls up and says they’re going to be interviewing for this production supervisor position, would I be interested. I said yes, definitely.

    HR Guy: “It might be a third shift position.”
    Me: “Yes, I understood that. I can work third shift.”
    HR Guy: [long pause] “Are you sure you understand? You’ll be working at NIGHT.”
    Me: [brief pause] “… Yes, that’s when third shift is. I’m fine with that.”

    He paused again, then SIGHED (at which point I almost burst out laughing), then proceeded to give some details and say he’d arrange for the plant HR folks to give me a call and set things up. They did, I interviewed, it was a great interview and nice people and everything went very well.

    Three days later, corporate HR guy calls again (while I’m in the car, coincidentally). “I’ve got very good news!” (Then he paused, forcing me to ask what that news could POSSIBLY BE.) “You’re be a terrific fit for the manufacturing engineer position” (actually a far better job than what I interviewed for) “so we’re offering you that — what do you think!”

    I cheerfully and politely thanked him very much, agreed that it was a great deal; I’d get back soon to let him know if I accepted. There was a LONG pause, so long I said, “Hello?” to make sure my cell phone hadn’t died. And then he said, “Well, I’m VERY SURPRISED. I thought you were really interested in this job. I’m just surprised that now you don’t seem ENTHUSIASTIC at all.” (And that’s when I nearly laughed again.)

    I ended up taking the job (without needing to do any salary negotiation — who knows how he would have reacted to THAT discussion!), and the local HR manager (another man) was horrified when I brought up the corporate HR behavior in my orientation.

    I was able to laugh about it rather than be furious only because I didn’t care whether I got the job or not.


  23. How many of the people here are unionized faculty? I was hired in at $1 below the cap of my entry rank (Lecturer rank because I was ABD but with complete thesis in hand) with the promise that the first term after I defended, I’d be given a merit increment and promoted (so higher salary and new ceiling). However, in a unionized faculty the only way to really bump up your salary is in the initial negotiations or through merit increments which are now competitive and awarded by the T&P committee after daunting scrutiny.

    That said, I’ve done pretty well. My salary was literally depressed for several years in the 1990s due to a public sector salary roll-back imposed by the government, but thanks to the union’s system and my promotions along the way, I’m now on the province’s Sunshine List of public sector employees making a six-figure income. And our benefits are pretty awesome, too!


  24. Oy vey! I’ve recently decided to take the plunge and, after a few years off from academia (I’m just finishing my JD), apply for PhD programs in women’s studies. I really do think that professor is the right career for me, after having given it a lot of thought, but considering this salary negotiation thing is a little scary. It never would have occurred to me to ask for more (though I might have just said no thanks, that’s not enough money for me to live). Hopefully I’ll learn that skill somewhere along the line!


  25. This discussion has been heartening. I started at a third-tier public university–where negotiating wasn’t even an option. The salary was the salary, take it or leave it. I took it–having just rejected the salary at another public university, which was lower than the part-time pay I was earning at the time. In salary discussions for that job offer, the dean did a spit-take when I suggested that I would prefer not to take a cut from my current part-time employment. “Computer scientists don’t make that much!” he proclaimed. “Well, I do,” I replied. WTF. I did not consider that job–even though I was staring down the maw of unemployment. The next month brought two more job offers, both much better than the one I turned down. Now I teach at a union university. You can’t use a job offer to bump your salary here, but I’m pretty happy with the way it has worked out. I figure, if you have a better job offer, take it. (Or it’s not really better, now, is it?)
    And don’t be deceived when public universities publish salaries. Here, favored professors get “stipends,” which are not part of the public record. I get a stipend of $3600 for being chair. Some faculty members get stipends of $30,000 for being somebody’s pet. But it’s not salary, so it’s not public.


  26. Historiann, I was recently reading Stanley Fish’s latest (given to me for free, and I enjoy a good laugh), and he was going on about faculty negotiating salaries and how a good Dean (which he was until a couple of years ago) will mark you for life as selfish and ungrateful if you so much as try it. God knows Fish is a well-documented jerk, but is he right? Do we risk having people like department chairs and deans stand in our way after we get there, all because we asked for more money?


  27. Jeremy–who knows? It seems to me that chairs and deans can just say “no.” Faculty can’t turn into selfish jerks on their own–if Fish created or enabled a few of them, then that’s on him.

    Fish gets a lot of ink for being “contrarian,” but he just seems like a fairly authoritarian administrator to me. His attitude is that the faculty have to be constrained and disciplined, rather than watered and fed and let loose. People write about him as an “English professor,” when the majority of his later professional life was spent as an administrator. So, telling people not to negotiate a salary seems like very self-interested talk from a professional administrator. It doesn’t sound like good advice to individual faculty members.

    I still say negotiate for more money. It certainly will give you street cred with your fellow faculty members, at least!


  28. I don’t disagree with you at all. I guess the part that worried me was his implication that these higher-ups — department chairs, deans, provosts — would stalk you throughout your academic life at an institution, trying to get you fired at every turn because you dared to ask for a higher salary when you got hired. If that’s true (and I kind of think it’s not), it’s probably not worth that kind of hassle to negotiate.


  29. This is an interesting thread. I hold a master’s in a professional program and am finishing a Ph.D. in an academic field. I recently moved from an administrative position in my professional field in a university to a teaching position in the same field at another university. When we talked about salary, in general terms, I asked for a salary matching my then current salary (figuring the “bump” would come from moving from a 12 month to a 9 month contract). When the chair came back with a salary within a thousand dollars of what was then my current salary, I accepted without any negotiation. In the new position, the improved benefits more than made up for the slight loss of salary.

    In one of the earlier comments, someone mentioned that those who seem to make the higher salaries than those who are willing to move on. That certainly proved to be the case in my situation. Also, making the move from admin to faculty also helped a great deal. In my former position, I was clearly losing ground as my annual raises as an administrator were not keeping pace with those given to faculty. (Not that faculty didn’t deserve those raises!) When I left, one of the professionals who worked for me was making nearly as much as I was — with far less experience and responsibilities, a master’s, and an eleven-month faculty contract! That was confirmation enough for me that I needed to move on.


  30. Historiann, further up the thread you commented –

    “Everyone should negotiate, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that closing the wage gap is in our control as individuals.”

    I think this is an important point. It seems to have become part of the whole Oprah self-help culture to pin the responsibility for wage gaps – whether based on gender, race or whatever – on the individual’s ability to ‘shift for themselves’. This completely obscures the systemic reasons wage gaps persist, and continues to foster that environment where individual women feel they have to do more and better work than male colleagues to achieve the same recognition.


  31. your story frightens and yet seems less unusual to me than others I’ve heard.

    My first time out, I had already checked the salaries of comparable junior faculty at the institution and in the state as well as the salaries of those closer to tenure, tenured, and the chair (so as not to ask for more than any of them were getting). I asked for about $1500 more than offered and the Chair was very reasonable in responding & after a little while we settled on 1250 more plus a bump in travel monies (added $1000). What was unreasonable was that she then sent a contract that had the old salary on it and no mention of travel money and tried to convince me to sign it “and they’d fix it later.” I refused and then the pressure was on. After a week of increasingly irritated phone calls demanding I sign or lose the position, she finally sent a new contract. The new contract had the correct salary but was the wrong type of contract (it was a temporary contract). I called my advisor and asked what to do and she advised me to be careful b/c it seemed like they either didn’t have the money to fund the position or that they were trying to avoid making good on their commitments to me and that I should make sure I had exhausted alternative offers before signing anything with them. Unfortunately, I had stupidly turned down another offer and canceled two interviews already because this had been my top choice.

    Ultimately, I got the correct contract and the correct salary. It took 3.5 weeks in total and likely cost me long term employment there. Like you, I discovered that the leadership style displayed during the negotiation was the same as the style for the department: a sort of passive-aggressive, beg and scold, and then just threaten style. In my case, I think I was experiencing a similar thing to you but for a different reason since our genders were the same.

    Having watched how some of the men negotiate contracts here at Pov U, I have to say that I prefer passive-aggressive to being yelled at or otherwise menaced in such obviously dehumanizing ways.


  32. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences. I wouldn’t discount sex bias (in addition to possible race/ethnic bias) in your case, even though your problem was with a female chair. As I’m sure you know, women also evaluate other women differently–sexism isn’t just something that men do to women. Rather, it’s something that we all participate in.

    Word on this: “I discovered that the leadership style displayed during the negotiation was the same as the style for the department.” It’s all so maddeningly predictable, isn’t it?


  33. “As I’m sure you know, women also evaluate other women differently–sexism isn’t just something that men do to women.”

    true. sometimes I like to lie to myself about this one tho, so thanks for calling me on it.


  34. Two new professors in my dept. One woman, one man. Both assistant prof level. The woman has a book, the man doesn’t even have an article (but both are very nice people so this isn’t a critique of them but of the administration). He makes a thousand more a year and she tried negotiating. If that ain’t gender discrimination, I don’t know what is. Makes me furious. I, of course, make less than both of them…


  35. Pingback: Lesson for girls: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  36. 1st time. 3 offers. 1: above average salary. Did not try to get this place further up but used offer to try to get place 2 to match, which they did, easily. place 3: insultingly low, like, I couldn’t have afforded to go and told them so, it was so low that even if they negotiated up I couldn’t have rented even an efficiency.

    2d time. 1 offer. $3K lower than what I was making. Asked: can you come up? Answer: no, I was supposed to start lower than this and come up to it if you asked, but I couldn’t face offering less knowing where you were. I hated where I was and took it, pay cut and all.

    3d time. 1 offer. Again, $3K lower than what I was making. Asked, can you come up? Got same answer as place 2 had given. Took it.

    4th time. 1 offer. $2K above what I was making. Still low. Said can you come up? Got same answer answer as place 3 had given. Took it.

    5th time. 1 offer. $20K above what I was making. Said can you come up? Got same answer as what place 4 had given. Took it.

    What I learned: to really get them to come up you have to have another offer. Don’t know if it is generally true but this has been my experience.


  37. Pingback: Lessons for Girls #14: Don’t just ask, insist on help : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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  40. Pingback: Salary negotiations redux: ALWAYS negotiate for more. Always. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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