Meet Alex Dickinson, Co-Founder of Ask For It
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]D[/dropcap]id you know that about 57 percent of men with MBAs negotiate their salary before starting a new job, while only 8 percent of women do the same? We at Feminist Wednesday think it’s time for that to change, and Alex Dickinson agrees. She’s the founder of an amazing organization called Ask For It, whose goal is to empower women to ask for what they deserve. The best part of Alex’s work is that she doesn’t place all the responsibility on women– she also recognizes and wants to shift the social structures that make negotiation more complicated for women than men, and helps women navigate those structures. This week, we chatted with Alex about why she does what she does, and her empowering advice for women everywhere.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]M[/dropcap]y name is Alex, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by taking both an institutional and an individual approach to negotiation training. We help women entrepreneurs develop and enhance their negotiation skills so they can be more successful at accomplishing their company’s goals.[wc_divider style="solid" line="double" margin_top="5" margin_bottom="5"]
I love that your work is very much by women, for women. Can you tell us a bit about the role feminism plays in what you do?
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]F[/dropcap]eminism is a part of everything I do, personally and professionally. I’ve been seeking and creating opportunities to make a positive impact in women's lives since I was about sixteen. In high school, I created a workshop for middle school girls called Picture Perfect, and it was about pointing out how marketing and media can subtly influence your body image and self-esteem.
My work with Ask For It is a continuation and extension of the passion and expertise I’ve been cultivating since I was a teenager. My "ah-ha moment" came when I spent about a year trying and failing to get a new job. I had been working at the same organization for about three years when a position became open on my team which was at a higher level than mine and also in a slightly different specialty. I interviewed for the job but I didn’t know how to appropriately prepare. I assumed that since I’d be speaking with co-workers and leaders who already knew me, they would have no trouble picturing me in a different role. Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out. When put on the spot, I couldn’t articulate how my skill set translated to this new role or why I wanted the job, and was surprised and stumped by some basic questions about my own background. I did not get that position, and I felt like everything I’d read about just raising your hand for new opportunities was a lie.
It turns out that the mistake I made is a pretty common one; I figured, “I’ve got this, I’ll just wing it.” That’s a pretty sure way to get caught off guard. For this reason, Ask For It workshops are heavily biased toward action. We only teach actionable, published research that is proven to be successful. This is also why we teach some strategies that are designed specifically for women. Some women I know balk at the idea that they should negotiate differently than men, and I respect that viewpoint. But I still teach techniques for women because the reality is, the most current research says they are more effective. Get that next promotion, earn that leadership role, and then turn around and change it for the women behind you. But get to that top spot first![wc_divider style="solid" line="double" margin_top="5" margin_bottom="5"]
What are the most challenging and best parts of your work?
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]O[/dropcap]ne of the challenges I’m facing these days is getting big things accomplished as quickly as I’d like. Right now, we’re working on building scalable training solutions that are accessible to anyone. We have a small team and there are only so many hours in the day! Carving out uninterrupted time to work on programming can be tough since there’s always something competing for my attention. The best part? My job is to lift others higher! What could be better than knowing that I had some role in someone’s success and fulfillment? I love teaching negotiation because it’s so learnable. Most people, unless they went to business school, never get formally taught to negotiate but it’s never too late to learn. When you understand some key concepts and learn how to build your strategy, you can achieve bigger goals, and feel more happiness and satisfaction in your life.[wc_divider style="solid" line="double" margin_top="5" margin_bottom="5"]
What's one piece of advice on knowing your worth you think every woman should follow?
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]K[/dropcap]nowing it is one thing, asking for it is another. There are plenty of resources out there to help you find the right numbers to make your case, but your strategy needs to go beyond dollars and cents. Even though you’re ultimately advocating on your own behalf, you’re more likely to have success if you put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes. Let’s say you’re seeking a raise at work, you’d like to earn more to pay down your student loans. Your manager is probably not going to be swayed by that argument alone. From her perspective, she may need to go to bat with the higher ups to get you that salary bump, and she’ll need to give a good reason. It would be more effective to explain why your past performance merits an increase.
On the flip side, if you’re very comfortable tooting your own horn, you could come across as too aggressive. It’s frustrating, but it can be a fine line. In our workshops, we teach specific strategies that research has shown to be more effective for women negotiators.[wc_divider style="solid" line="double" margin_top="5" margin_bottom="5"]
Any plugs or upcoming initiatives you want our readers to know about?
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]Y[/dropcap]es! If you’re interested in learning more about negotiation, follow us @askforitproject on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to get a daily dose of inspiration. Visit our website to join the mailing list and get notified about upcoming events: www.askforitproject.com
For any readers who live in the Providence, RI area, I invite you to join me and the PVD Lady Project on March 10 for a negotiation workshop. I’ll also be presenting that weekend at the Lady Project Summit, which is is a one-day conference full of awesome speakers, professional workshops, and a whole lot of networking.
If you’re working on preparing for an upcoming negotiation challenge, we offer personalized, one-on-one consultation sessions. Get more info on our website.