PDX Women in Tech - Q&A with Tiberius Hefflin

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Women still earn less pay for the same work. And in the tech sector, that’s no different. According to a recent study conducted by Glassdoor, female programmers make nearly 30% less than their male counterparts. That’s now.

PDX Women in Tech (PDXWIT) is working to turn that now into a better soon. The group brings together and empowers women through monthly talks, networking events, and workshops. At 3,000 members and growing, PDXWIT is a vigilant fixture in the Portland community.

FINE played host to the group’s latest meetup, Never Take the First Offer, the art of salary negotiation, with speaker and Intel Security Evaluation Engineer, Tiberius Hefflin. While women continue making 79 cents to a man’s dollar (according to a report released by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff), Tiberius shared her perspective on asking for something women aren't often trained to ask for: more.

Post-talk, we followed up with Tiberius to talk some more—about the stigma, the stagnation, and speaking up.

Never Take the First Offer really drew a crowd. What inspired your talk around salary negotiation?

When I decided I wanted to negotiate for myself, I found very few resources targeted at women. Given the statistics, I felt that it's really important that we, as a community, get rid of the taboos surrounding talking about our salaries and how we negotiate. Using my experiences as a starting point to foster a conversation on the subject seemed the best way for me to contribute to that change.

You cited in your talk that not negotiating your salary can result in an average of $500,000 lost income over a lifetime. Do you think that’s enough to motivate women to advocate for their value, or do you think there are other stigmas at play?

I think it’s enough to start a conversation. We have an opportunity to help people rethink their own behavior and the behavior of those around them. It's often in the process of talking to our friends and peers that we build our opinions and find the confidence to act on those opinions. It's not the stats, but this personal interaction that instigates change — for all matters.

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding the behavior of all under-privileged peoples, and these often become entrenched in the social contracts that underlie our society — giving rise to systemic oppression.

Disrupting them is difficult and takes time. That said, I think working to subvert these stigmas in our own minds and learning to advocate for ourselves can be very rewarding, not just monetarily, but emotionally and socially.

What do you think are the circumstances that have lead to the underpaying of minority groups?

There are a lot of historical ideologies that have laid the foundation for the systemic oppression our society struggles with today. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry all contribute to the pervasive underpaying of minority groups, and that is a very small expression of these super complex issues.

Given the year and that women are now in CEO and leadership roles nationwide, why is it that we have not seen more progress?

Even in the boardrooms we inhabit, minorities are underrepresented. When women comprise 17% of a crowd, it is perceived by men as being an even split, and when women make up 33% or more of a group, it is perceived by men that there are more women than men in the room (a stat from Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media . This is why we are hovering at 25% in tech; the dominant group perceives that we are equal, and this is a perception that we have to fight.

I am so thankful to have groups like PDXWIT and Women Who Code to help spread education, create networking opportunities, provide role models, and break the isolation so many women experience by being the only underrepresented person in their team/office/company.

*Tell us about some salary negotiation tactics. Which often surprises people? *

A few are well-known, like not giving your previous salaries, and letting the company make the first offer. Others are not as well known, like negotiating on the fringe benefits that are important to you, or asking for a commitment to a six-month salary review. I think the tactic that surprised this audience the most was a tactic called “The Pause.” When an offer is given, repeat it back to the representative and then be quiet. Allow that uncomfortable silence to play out. The most likely result will be that the rep will rush to fill that silence with a better offer.

How can companies and hiring managers be part of this change?

There’s a lot they can do! In fact, I think they have the opportunity to foster the change we wish to see. Companies can conduct salary audits to monitor and address gender-based pay differences. They should also remove the taboo surrounding discussing compensation by making payscales and benefit offerings transparent to their employees, and even release that information to the public.

Companies and hiring managers can change their hiring processes to accommodate and commit to blind application review. They can also create opportunities to educate employees about effective communication, unconscious bias, and microaggressions. My last suggestion is that companies create diversity and inclusion initiatives to attract more diverse applicants and celebrate the wonderful differences that make humanity so fascinating.

What should people keep in mind when deciding whether or not to negotiate?

As we say in Scotland, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. By that I mean that when you don’t try to negotiate, you’re saying no to yourself before anyone else has a chance to consider saying yes.

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