Kimberly Humphrey: ACLU Public Policy Counsel Talks Negotiation Skills

Kimberly Humphrey, ESQ is the former Public Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Maryland’s Education program. She drives policy change aimed at equity in education funding,

Kim, what are your thoughts about the gender wage gap? 

I was a sociology major and my undergraduate dissertation was about femininity and the different way society changes their view on things when women take over.  Fun fact, George W. Bush was a cheerleader, just to give critique of what a woman’s place is and how we devalue the things that we do.  This is a part of the patriarchal society that we are in.  I do think it is changing, especially as we see more women coming forward about these kind of issues and really challenging it.  We need to stop doing things because it’s the way we have done them forever, especially with so many women being the head of household.  It just does not make any sense.  I really look forward to the evolution that we will achieve equal pay for equal work.

Research shows that men are four times as likely than women to negotiate their salary, why do you think that is? 

It has a lot to do with how we were raised.  Society has very specific ideas about how a woman should act.  Even if it’s not straight forward, a lot of times we get those messages and a lot of girls are taught to be shy and soft spoken. When we are in the setting of starting a new job, I think a lot of us don’t negotiate at that point; or we are in a setting, when often times our managers are male.  We just may not feel comfortable. But I hope this number will be changing soon. I think women feel uncomfortable because we are taught to be happy that we are in the room…  I’ve tried to reprogram myself as I look at different opportunities and as I think about professional growth; or as I think about just connecting with different people, just to be more confident.  I know I can do it.  I am worth it and I have a lot to share.

Tell me about the first time you negotiated your salary and what that felt like? 

A few years ago, so not too long ago, I did.  I’ve been in my professional career for about ten years now so that says a lo about conversation expanding and just having the confidence to do that.  I did my research.  I knew that I had experienced a lot of growth in my position.  I was starting to be sought after for different topics and different conferences and I realized I was still struggling.  So, I went online to Indeed and other sites to get their advice.  What I did was lay out what I was contributing.  I laid out not just how much more I am taking on in comparison to my team, but my education level in comparison to my team, and the standing that I was gaining in the community.  I was able to lay out the rational and they agreed.  So, do your research.  Cover your basis and be confident about it.  Sometimes work is moving so fast you don’t know all your doing.  It felt amazing.  I felt valued and I’m passionate about my work.

What do you say to women who want to be better salary negotiators?  

We can all do better.  Be excellent whether or not you are getting the due you deserve.  Don’t ever lower your standards or your work ethic.  We definitely need to be better if we are not doing it enough, and the statistics show we are not.  Women have to go in prepared.  I’ve had experiences where women have come to me and they said they raised the conversation without going through the steps of: How can I justify this? What have I contributed? What projects have I created? What connections have I made for this company?  If we are going to do it, we have to be confident about it.  Say it with a straight face. Go in there bold and even if you are turned down, just say thank you.  Continue your hard work.  You may have to continue looking for other opportunities.  But we can definitely just be confident and go for it.

Is there anything you want to add? 

I especially want to put a message out there to women of color in the workplace.  I often find that we have similar shared experiences that we are not discussing and we think we are alone.  We may feel that we are being treated differently.  We may not know why.  We may not want to rush to judgment and it may not be race or age or gender, but it might be.  We really need to be aware of the types of issues that we can commonly face and be aware of the signs.  I would just tell young people to always be aware of their surroundings and don’t be afraid to assert yourself as a professional.  That’s something I definitely had to learn. 

Kimberly Humphrey, ESQ is the Public Policy Counsel “for the ACLU of Maryland’s Education program. She drives policy change aimed at equity in education funding, working with state and city officials, parents, school administrators and local community leaders to ensure that every student has access to quality academic programs and enrichment opportunities. She also leads state and local discipline reform initiatives aimed at overhauling counterproductive policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities.”

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