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May 9, 2024

Tips to Negotiate as a Working Mom

At this point, I’ve reviewed over 13,000 pages of academic research and helped over a hundred women optimize their workplace negotiations. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are my top tips for working moms who want to enjoy the Best of Both Worlds:

  1. Understand what YOU need to be successful

The standard workplace negotiation tends to focus on what we need AT WORK and ignores that “other life” we live.

However, we are only one person and we will be doing both “the momming” and “the working”. 

When you have an opportunity to negotiate, take a step back and think about your WHOLE life.  What do you need to do this well?

One working mom, Julia, got her “dream job” with one catch: it would require moving her family across the country.  Not only is that a big adjustment, but Julia identified the location she was currently in, where she had grown up and gone to college within an hour of each other, as one of the reasons she was able to be successful at work.

“When something goes wrong – my flight is late, school is closed for inclement weather, someone has a mild fever – I have a whole community of folks who are happy to pitch in.  I won’t have that on the other side of the country.”

She negotiated to secure the job without the move.

This extends to negotiating for more support at work.  One soon-to-be-mom-of-twins, Anita, successfully negotiated for a promotion alongside bringing two additional folks onto her team so that she had time to train them before the babies arrived.

Want to see what other women are asking for?  Check out our list of 75 things we’ve seen women successfully negotiate.

  1. Use research to negotiate effectively

The vast majority of women who choose not to negotiate at work report it was because they were afraid of the downsides – what if they were told no? Not seen as a team player anymore? Sidelined at work?

That fear is real. The risk of backlash is higher for women than men in traditional workplace negotiations.  

Luckily, there’s a solution. 

We call it Worthmore’s Relational Ask Equation™ (aka: The “WRAE”): Past Performance + Future Vision + Ask + Stop Talking.

It’s based on research out of Harvard, validated at Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown, showing how women can increase their chances of success and “virtually eliminate” the risk of backlash.  You can read more on how to use it here and access scripts here

Kourtney, a single mom who was balancing sole custody of two young children along with a 70-hour-per-week job, used this approach to successfully negotiate a new role that worked for her family.  She now works from home two days a week, and has the flexibility to leave during the day to attend her kids’ school events.

  1. Create your own mold

The workplace not built for primary caregivers.  This means that you may look around and not see a single work/life example you want to replicate – you may be creating one from scratch.

Last year Wanda’s former boss asked her to join the company he is now at.  She was inclined to say no, but decided to see if she could negotiate a better fit for her young family.  She ended up not only getting her “dream schedule” but also a pay increase and a longer maternity leave for Baby #3.

“It is weird that I work very different hours from the rest of the company, but it works so much better at home, and works well for my team too.  Win/win!”

I was raised by a single mom who couldn’t be around as much as she wanted to.  Starting at the age of 6, my dream was to be the “pick up mom” – the one who got their kids immediately afterschool instead of sending them to daycare.

Does picking up my kindergartner at 2:45 every day align with my work?  Absolutely not. 

But I also didn’t want to let go of this 30-year-old dream, so I negotiated being off-line one day a week (Fridays) after 2:30.  Every Friday at 2:45, when I get to walk into the gym and pick up my little guy, I’m on top of the world.  

PS. If you want to go deeper, check out this conversation with time expert Laura Vanderkam about Negotiating as a Mom to enjoy the Best of Both Worlds. 



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