Getting What You Deserve: Are the Rules Different for Women?

By now you’ve no doubt seen the headlines splashed across social media: at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made some controversial remarks regarding women asking for raises.

His exact quote, in case you missed it, was this: “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise as you go along. That, I think, might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have. It’s good karma. It will come back.”

The idea that women should sit back, collect “good karma” and have faith that they’ll be given a fair raise – eventually – stirred up considerable ire. After all, this is the era of Lean In, where women are encouraged to accelerate their careers straight into the C suite and beyond. And the fact that Nadella heads up a tech company made his comments especially tone-deaf, given the gender imbalance rampant in so many tech companies. Microsoft’s global workforce is only 29 percent women, a similar percentage to Google, Apple and other tech giants. Add in the fact that female computer scientists earn 89 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, and it’s no surprise that Nadella’s advice to “have faith” regarding compensation set off a firestorm.

But let’s be honest – this isn’t just a tech industry issue. It connects to a larger conversation across every field on how women should ask for promotions and raises. We’ve all heard the common wisdom that women simply don’t ask for enough money, that they don’t understand how to negotiate. Yet thanks to executive attitudes like Nadella’s, many women have experienced blowback when they do advocate for themselves.

Some women will tell you there are two sets of rules for getting ahead: one for men and one for women. While assertive men are often seen as confident go-getters and emerging leaders, assertive women can be seen as pushy and demanding. These women frequently encounter a double standard in the workplace; they’re expected to be forthright and persistent in dealing with clients and chasing down business, but passive when advocating for their career interests internally.

It’s a paradox that’s left many women uncertain of how they can obtain fair compensation without alienating their own leadership. But one fact has never been in question: playing passive can waste years of your career and cost you in myriad ways from job title to salary.

Getting Educated on Getting Ahead

The first step toward becoming an effective self-advocate is recognizing that it won’t always come naturally. Women who were raised to be conciliatory no matter what frequently dread looking “greedy” or “pushy.” If that rings an uncomfortable bell, consider getting coaching on asking for raises and resources. Don’t feel bad if these aren’t intrinsic skills for you; this kind of training will help you for the rest of your career.

One important skill: learning how to negotiate effectively. This isn’t just for job offers, but will help when you request more staff or ask to lead a prestigious project. One rule of thumb is to arm yourself with solid data. Do your homework, find our what your position is worth, and compile evidence that validates your claims and requests. If you’re part of a global team and answer to leaders with different cultural standards, study up in advance on what their expectations may be.

Another tip is to learn from both female and male colleagues. Many women focus exclusively on finding female mentors and advisors. While successful women can indeed offer valuable counsel on overcoming gender-based obstacles, you might learn just as much from observing the professional maneuvers of the men around you. You might not be privy to their private compensation discussions, but you can learn how they advertise their own worth both in and out of the company.

Finally, think about your personal brand in this context. Obviously you want to treat everyone well and build positive relationships with clients and colleagues. At the same time, be sure that you present yourself at all times as a valuable asset to the company. Being easy to work with is great; letting yourself be taken for granted is not. Make sure your interactions and reputation communicate your value.

In the end, the question of getting what you deserve is too situational to merit an easy answer. But we do know that women are on the rise when it comes to claiming leadership positions and the rewards that come with them – and by sharpening your skills, you can help light the way.

4 Steps to a Better Online Reputation (Globally)

Global Expansion Strategy

As a working professional, you know the social media rules – at least, I hope you do. No incriminating content: that means no photos of you partying hard and certainly no bashing current or former workplaces and bosses. Almost everyone who’s smart and ambitious understands these standards and keeps their social presence relatively clean.

At the same time, the Internet has a way of surprising us with content we never expected anyone to see. A college political paper defending a controversial position. Photos from a wild beach vacation with friends. An old online dating profile we forgot about. We might even find ourselves named in an unflattering article by a former employee.

In a world where everyone from clients to HR departments to rivals to new bosses will be Googling you, maintaining an intelligent and non-offensive digital presence is critical – and when you’re part of a global team, the stakes get even higher. I can guarantee that because they’re not working side by side with you every day, your remote colleagues will research you online. The higher up the ladder you go, the truer this becomes. People want an inside look at anyone influential in their career. Who can blame them?

And that introduces a whole new set of criteria when evaluating your digital presence. Take a second look at your LinkedIn photo. Maybe it’s appropriate for American businesses, but won’t pass muster in that other culture you’ll be working in. Your wish list on Pinterest – does it send any particular kind of message? How about your photos on Instagram?

Remember, interpreting cultural nuances correctly is the key to successful global business. Your digital footprint must be viewed through a cross-cultural lens, not just an American one. And while you might consider your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts private, think otherwise. If they can be linked to your working name, they will be found, shared and judged by other employees and professional contacts.

Building a good global reputation

There are four best practices for maintaining a globally positive online reputation: clean up, cultivate, create and monitor.

1. Clean-up: Start by cleaning house. Search under your name – maiden and married – and look for any embarrassing photos or written content. Maybe a blog you started under a pseudonym is linked to your real name in the WHOIS database. If you find something ugly or mortifying, go ahead and ask the site managers to take it down. Sometimes this is simple; sometimes you’ll need to be persistent. If for whatever reason you have a trail of not-work-friendly content out there linked to your name, you may want to invest in a professional service that cleans up profiles for a fee.

2. Cultivate: Once you’ve scrubbed your digital image, it’s time to cultivate your personal brand as you’d like industry influencers and global coworkers to perceive it. Do you want to be seen as active and friendly or distant and cool on social platforms? Are you quietly confident or bold and challenging? The idea is to decide how you can portray your best professional self across cultures, rather than posting willy-nilly content that may send a false impression.

3. Create: Next up: creating the content for that presence. This shouldn’t be a fabricated performance – it’s about being authentic and appropriate in all eyes. It’s also a golden opportunity to bury negative online content about you. Write articles and op-eds, take lots of work-safe photos and get active in community events. One quick trick for burying old search results: commenting under your real name on extremely popular blogs and web sites. It’s all about search rank. Take a look at your internal company profile too, and assess how you come across. Can you contribute to a company blog? Is there an internal social network where you can build an appealing profile?

4. Monitor: Finally, you’ll want to monitor your footprint. Establish a Google alert in your name. If your profile is especially visible, sign up with a social media hub service that tracks conversations across multiple platforms. Again, pursue the removal of content when you can, but if you can’t, take any opportunity to respond thoughtfully.

So there you have it: the roadmap to a good online reputation. I know the temptation to stick your head in the sand might be strong, but it’s always better to address what’s out there rather than be the last to find out about it. Take a proactive approach and you’ll avoid any embarrassing surprises – and you’ll build an impressive digital presence that can be a fantastic asset in your global career.

Succeeding as a Woman Doing Business Abroad

Creating Global Mindset

Your phone rings. It’s the CFO. Suddenly you’re booking a flight to Qatar in three days for an important conference. Or you’re promoted to director of the Asia-Pacific region. You’ll be leaving for a ten-day tour of meetings in countries from Malaysia to Japan where you’ll meet your new staff.

Whether your trip is to one country or an entire region, the key to success for women doing global business is preparation. Take the time to understand the business etiquette and local customs of the countries where you’ll be working and your new professional relationships and responsibilities will go that much more smoothly.

Sounds obvious, right? Yet time and again business travelers make the mistake of arriving blind in a foreign country. As a woman, what is important to know before grabbing your passport and laptop and hopping on an international flight?

Let’s say you’re headed into Japan. Business culture here is much more hierarchical than in the States, which means you need to know the rank of associates to interact with them appropriately. Another consideration: the custom for reaching out to new contacts. In some countries, it’s acceptable to call them directly; in others, you should approach their assistant or have a local contact make an introduction. Don’t wait until your first meeting to find out.

Since many cultures have gender-specific standards for business etiquette, make sure your reconnaissance includes customs regarding women. Take your clothing, for example. Your business wardrobe may not be a big deal in Sweden, but that changes in the Middle East, where standards of modesty are stricter. And don’t assume customs will hold true across an entire region. In one country, showing leg might be fine while showing your shoulder is not, with a very different standard in a neighboring country.

Another important consideration: transportation. Street safety and rules regarding sharing transportation with men will vary. Find out beforehand the safest and most appropriate methods for traveling to your hotel and to meetings, whether it’s an arranged car service, a taxi or another mode.

Communication can be a particularly delicate area. Understand expectations regarding how meetings are conducted, who should speak first or most, who sets the agenda and how negotiations are conducted. If you’re used to blurting out your ideas in meetings or boldly expressing dissent, you may need to hold back or find a more delicate approach in some cultures. The last thing you want is to accidentally offend an important colleague or client – an occurrence that happens way too often in international business dealings.

At the same time, you do want to make sure that your rank is understood. It’s not unheard of for visiting female executives to be perceived as assistants or junior associates in some cultures, so always try to find an appropriate way to establish your credentials and authority — especially in countries where professional women are rare. One tip: if there’s a specific region you’ll be visiting frequently, print up special business cards in English on one side and in the language of that country on the other so there can be no mistake about your job title. Also make sure that your male colleagues are aware of any cultural gender patterns and don’t undermine you in public, even unintentionally.

Finally, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that socializing in other countries can be a minefield. In the United States, we might casually invite a visiting colleague out for some local sightseeing; that might not be appropriate in another country. While building professional relationships is always a positive thing, the parameters of “work friendships” will vary from culture to culture.

Ditto with protocol for dining and drinks. One good rule of thumb is to socialize in groups whenever possible. If you need to have a business dinner with a male colleague, invite others to attend – preferably women from that culture. And don’t be surprised if, in some regions, you’ll do business with men all day but be segregated at women-only dinner tables that night.

Remember, all of this is part of a valuable education that will teach you how to understand your new teammates and work with them more effectively. Doing business internationally is always an enriching experience for any professional woman. Do your homework and you’ll be considered a success both at home and overseas.