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An Overlooked Key to Greater Career Advancement for Women

During recent years, women have become a bigger part of the Veterinary profession. This trend was substantiated in an article published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in December of 2020. According to the article, the size of the nation’s active veterinary workforce in 2019 was approximately 116,000 members, of whom 63% were female. This marked a 12% increase in women veterinarians over the past decade.

Frederic Ouedraogo, PhD, AVMA assistant director of economics, was also quoted in the article. According to Dr. Ouedraogo, men currently make up the majority of private practice owners, but he predicts that the majority of U.S. practice owners will be women by 2028. Undoubtedly, this is great news overall for women in the Veterinary profession.

However, as a Veterinary recruiter and Executive search consultant in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession for the past 25 years, I can say with certainty that there is more that women can do to maximize their professional opportunities. As a female business owner, I know the challenges that women face in business, despite all of the strides that have been made during the past few decades. In light of this, there are things that women can do to “level the playing field” to further advance their careers.

And one of those things is their ability to negotiate.

According to the book Ask For It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, men initiate negotiations to advance their own interests four times as frequently as women. In fact, here are some of the things about which women do not typically ask:

  • To be promoted
  • For project assignments
  • To take on more responsibility
  • For additional training
  • To be recognized

There are multiple reasons for this disparity between the sexes. First, men are more likely than women to engage in risky behavior and take chances, a mindset that is conducive to negotiation. Women, on the other hand, often have a different mindset and approach. They:

  • Are more likely to believe that life “happens” to them and they have no control over it.
  • Tend to make the best of things, sometimes at a great personal cost to themselves.
  • Are more likely to make the assumption that someone else gets to decide what their worth is work.

I’ve seen the evidence of this in the job market. In one situation, I was working with a job candidate, a woman, on a search for one of my clients. She was a finalist for the position, and she was highly experienced and qualified. However, she was concerned because there were internal candidates who were also interested in the position. She was worried that if she got the job, those internal candidates would resent her and make her life more difficult.

I said to her, “That is a question that a man would never ask me. In fact, in my years of being an executive recruiter, a man has never asked me that kind of question or expressed that kind of concern.”

And unfortunately, I have seen this time and time again with women. I’ve had women tell me they don’t want to apply for a position because one of their friends is applying, too. They don’t want to compete against their friend. Men do not do this. I had a situation where two men who were good friends were competing for the same job, and their attitude was “May the best man win.”

I have seen some women who have lacked confidence about going after what they want or talking themselves out of moving forward to pursue opportunities. I’m not saying this to be sexist. I am a woman. I’m simply commenting on what I have seen. Men will sometimes step up and say “pick me, pick me” even when they are not qualified for the job while some women will talk themselves out of moving forward with a job for which they are qualified, out of fear or lack of confidence.

In another instance, I called a female candidate about an opportunity with one of my clients, an opportunity that was a more senior level role than the position she currently held. It offered more compensation and greater responsibility. It was also located geographically where she said she’d rather work.

The person in this new role would report to the head of the business unit. At her current position, there were three people between her and the business unit head. Following a face-to-face interview, my client was interested and wanted to move the candidate forward in the process.

But the candidate declined. She told me that she was intimidated by the role. She was afraid that she would not meet my client’s expectations. The manager, who was a woman in a C-level position, was really interested in this candidate and was disappointed that she did not want to move forward in the process. She was already on the short list of candidates and had an excellent chance of receiving an offer of employment. But she decided not to move forward. She sold herself short.

One of the reasons that women avoid it is because they view it as unpleasant or they think it will be. This is typically known as the competitive style of negotiating. The competitive approach is an aggressive, hardball strategy. This is the kind that many women assume all negotiations are like, and it is true that men are more likely to negotiate this way, especially if they’re negotiating with other men.

But another, but more effective style is the cooperative or collaborate style of negotiation. This is a problem-solving, win-win approach. The cooperative approach is superior to the competitive approach, because it’s more likely to result in an actual agreement and more likely that the agreement will be beneficial for both sides. The main components of cooperative bargaining include:

  • Asking questions
  • Listening closely
  • Thinking creatively
  • Working together to solve problems

These are all skills that many women possess. In fact, it could be stated that more women excel in these areas than men. It could also be stated that more women than men are interested in creating a “win-win” situation, which is the natural outcome of the cooperative style of negotiation.

A good friend and executive in this industry once told me a story about how he was negotiating with another man and the negotiations were becoming heated. In fact, they were becoming so heated that the other man suggested they take a walk. During that walk, the man told my friend something that he still remembers to this day.

“A successful negotiation is a win-win for the people involved. If it’s not a win-win, then there won’t be a lasting relationship. It has to be mutually beneficial for both parties. If it’s not, then it’s eventually going to fall apart.”

Women excel in asking questions, listening closely, thinking creatively, and working together to solve problems. In other words, women excel in all components of cooperative negotiation, which is the superior style of negotiating. Since this is the case, there is no reason to believe that women can not excel at negotiation. In fact, there is plenty of reason to believe that women can negotiate just as well as men, and in some cases, perhaps even better.

The logical conclusion is that negotiation is an overlooked key to greater career advancement for women.

Simply put, women need to negotiate more, and specifically, they need to negotiate more in terms of their professional life and their career. I understand that not everyone likes to negotiate, and while that is understandable, everyone can negotiate and become better at doing so, and that includes women. The key is having a desire and a willingness to do so. Once you take that first step, you might find that the rest of the process is not as difficult as you thought it would be.

Women offer tremendous amounts of value in the workplace and the workforce. They should not only recognize that fact, but they should also leverage it to help advance and grow their career by being willing to negotiate for what they want and what they deserve.

If you’re looking to make a change or explore your employment options, then we want to talk with you. I encourage you to contact us or you can also create a profile and/or submit your resume for consideration.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.