Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

Archive for the ‘Negotiating’ Category

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing negotiating and having bargaining chips ready are important so that you are prepared when an opportunity to negotiate comes up.

Practice is easy, especially if you have children. They seem to be born negotiators. Don’t view the task of trying to convince them to eat their veggies as a chore. See it as practice negotiating. Think of a compromise solution that is moderate. Neither of you will get exactly what you want, but you will both get something and both give something.

Anticipate what the other party will want, but don’t start there. Start high, so that you have some room to work down. If your child wants to eat zero veggies, but you want her to eat 5 carrots, start with 10.

Have your bargaining chips ready. If you are asked to do something heinous, make sure you have something already pre-loaded that you can ask for in return for the favor of doing the crap work. For the child example, the child could request a dessert, if she eats all 10 carrots, as requested. That would be good forethought on the child’s part, and she would be eating all her carrots. You wouldn’t mind giving her the dessert after 10 carrots.

Obviously, there are other examples that don’t include kids, so please share. The point is to see the negotiating potential in all situations, and to practice your skills. It will eventually become second nature.

Everything is Negotiable

When I was talking to the chair of BigCityUniversity about my start up package there, he said that “everything is negotiable.” At BigCityU, you could negotiate your housing, since you had to rent from the university. I have seen BigShotProfessors negotiate their parking spots. I negotiated for HusbandOfScience to be given a tenure track position. I truly believe that anything is negotiable.  Of course, different schools are more or less accustomed to negotiating for certain items. BigCityU was used to negotiating housing, for instance. My current department had never negotiated a spousal accommodation before, but they were able to figure it out.

Some common items you can definitely negotiate:

  1. Salary for you.
  2. Equipment. It may be easier to get if multiple people can use it.
  3. Salary for people in the lab.

Some less common, yet equally important things you can negotiate:

  1. Daycare access or rank on a daycare list, especially if the university runs the daycare, and the list is long.
  2. Housing. (Number of bedrooms, location to campus, view.)
  3. Parking. (Parking location, rank on a list of parking lot.)
  4. Your spouse’s academic position. (See two-body issues in previous posts).
  5. Your spouse’s non-academic job. (Some universities can place spouses in administrative positions, or have other “non-academic” departments that they can tap into.)
  6. Your tenure clock (and you can re-negotiate later, if you need to have it longer or shorter).
  7. Your starting title. (Associate Professor without tenure? Full Professor with tenure?)
  8. The classes you will teach and the number of times you teach them before you switch. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Getting to repeat teaching a course is the key to getting better evaluations. Three times is usually perfect to get it right. More on these ideas later in teaching-related posts.
  9. If and when you will get relief from teaching during your first 5 years (many schools do this.)
  10. Your service duties. You can specify what you won’t do, too.
  11. Other future tenure-track hires that you will get to lead, or have say in recruiting and hiring. They can actually promise to make N hires over X years in your field.
  12. Space renovations. Double check if your start-up money has to pay for it, or if the university, dean, or department is fitting the bill.
  13. Office furniture and other amenities. (Do you need a mini-fridge for pumped milk and some curtains so that people can’t see in your office? They should provide that.)
  14. Travel to conferences.
  15. Career development opportunities, such as leadership conferences. These are pretty pricey (~$10,000), so this is no small potatoes to negotiate.

I say get as many of these thing in writing as possible, too. They don’t have to be listed in the offer letter, but get a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is signed by you, the chair, and the dean (or higher ups, if the money is coming from them). Not all these things are for a start-up either. They can be deployed for retention if you are being recruited away or are on the market.

If others have examples, please share as a comment or make a guest post.

Start Up

Let’s start with something obvious for negotiating: Your Start Up Package

When negotiating start up funds for a new position, you will likely be talking to the department chair. The chair should be your advocate with the dean and provost for these funds. He/She should want to help you succeed by getting the resources you need. Further, these are resources for the department that could be utilized by other faculty, as well, so it is in her best interest to negotiate well for you and the department.

Equipment: I recommend making a itemized dream list with equipment specified with dollar amounts. Highlight the items that are essential to your work. You cannot live without these items being right in your lab. Highlight items that could be shared as department resources. Highlight items that would be great to have nearby, but would be OK, if you had to travel to use them. Make sure they are able to be accessed freely in another department. If money is needed for these resources, ask for the money.

Space: Make a map of the lab space they are promising you. Place the equipment in the space to demonstrate how your lab will look when the renovations and installations are all done. If there is not enough room, or not what you need (a fume hood, for instance) point it out in that map. If you are given two split spaces, do it for all the space. If you are given two options, make up two to help you decide the best location.

People: Yes, you should ask for funds to pay students, technicians, postdocs, and YOURSELF! Ask for a certain number of students for a certain number of years. Ask to make sure that their tuition will be waved if you use start-up to pay. If not, you need to increase the number to pay for their stipends and their tuition. Make sure money for technicians and postdocs includes health care and other fees. Ask for summer salary for yourself, or make sure they are paying your salary (such as in a medical school) for several years before you will likely have independent funding.

Are there other items? Comment or write a guest post.

“Women Don’t Ask”

The title of this post harkens back to the classic book about negotiation skills for women. Negotiation skills are important for an academic career for more than just making sure you get a good start-up package. Daily negotiations are needed to make sure you aren’t doing too much service, taking on a terrible teaching load, or otherwise being taken advantage of. I am planning to have a couple posts on negotiating. I hope others will comment or write some guest posts about this important topic.

Surprise! I have a husband!

When on the market with a TwoBodyProblem, at some point you must reveal that you have a two body problem. But how and when are still a mystery. Multiple WomenOfScience, I have talked to have said that they faired best when they revealed it late. Yet, I talked to a WomanDepartmentChair, and she said that knowing earlier is better for her, since it would give her more time to negotiate and line up the second position. Now, this was a clearly enlightened chair who herself had a two body problem that was solved in that department.

Personally, I tried several different reveal times. For a couple, they knew or found out that we were together. For these three schools, I had two offers, and they both worked out something (one was tenure track and the other was soft money – I am sure you can guess which we picked). For one, I told them I had a spouse at the first interview. I was second on the hire list, but did not get an offer. For a couple, I didn’t tell them until the offer was made. One said it was impossible; the other offered my spouse a postdoc. From these experiences, I concluded that it is OK if they know already or find out through “natural” means, but if you are a complete stranger, it is best to not tell people too early.

Do others have stories or options that would work? What about telling the chair only, to enable some early probes before negotiating, but not telling the hiring committee?

Start Early

When thinking about your career, you cannot start too early. HusbandOfScience and I started planning in graduate school. As soon as we realized that we were planning to get married, we began to think about how we could achieve our career goals together. It is extremely important that your spouse is supportive and knows what the plan is. You have to make a plan and StickToThePlan. You and your significant other have to trust each other to StickToThePlan. We would chat 2-3 times per week about the plan, how to implement it, and the myriad of contingencies that could trickle down from not making it. Further, we always talked about “what if we don’t…” Like, what if we don’t get jobs; what if we don’t get two jobs together; what if we don’t get tenure. This is the same type of systematic planning we all need for scientific problem solving, research, and grant writing, so we should be very good at it. We had a whole decisions tree going on. I think it is important to have a back-up plan. I know some people think that having a back-up plan means you aren’t committed to the main plan, but that isn’t true. Having a back-up plan is just swinging on the trapeze with a safety net. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to try to stay on the trapeze.

Don’t Assume they Know

Although the two-body problem is obvious to many of us – especially younger and minority applicants – the people who are doing the hiring are not always so with it. This is especially true if your hiring committee is composed of mostly OlderWhiteMales. Most OWMs are not trying to keep out women and minorities, but they are oblivious. Most committees are required to have women or minorities on them, but they might not have a strong voice, if they are a minority voice. Further, they might also be ignorant of university policies or avenues that can lead to a double-hire.

At the BigStateUniversity that my husband and I ended up at, the hiring committee and the department had no idea how to go about trying to get a spousal accommodation. I did a number of things to help them.

First, at my interview, I asked to meet with other women in physical and life sciences. At those meetings, I asked about being a woman at the university, and I found out that several had two-body problems that the university had solved. This gave me evidence that the university could solve the two-body problem and that these other departments knew how to do it.

Second, I talked to the woman on my hiring committee about the possibility of solving the two-body problem during our meeting. I was lucky that she was senior, and she knew a lot about these issues.

Third, we StuckToThePlan. When the department called with the news they would make an offer to me, I asked about my husband’s search. He had a separate interview at the same place. They said that he wasn’t the top candidate. I told them that I would say “no” to all offers unless we had two positions.

After several weeks of chatting with the Department Chair, so he could negotiate with the Dean about my start-up, it became clear that he had no idea how to negotiate for a two-body hire. I told them it had to be possible because other departments had done it recently. I gave them the department names of the women I had talked to. I contacted the senior woman on my search committee, and asked her to talk to my chair about different options they could exercise. With her help, they figured out how to approach the Dean, and were able to make the spousal hire. HusbandOfScience did not get to negotiate for start-up. They gave him the same package as the theorist they hired for the same position for which he interviewed. Other than that, the solution at BigStateUniversity was ideal. We have been very successful.

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