Collegiate Director’s Letter

Happy New Year!

What goals have you set for 2014? This year, I am looking forward to finishing up my master’s degree and finding a new leadership position to continue my involvement in SWE. Another goal I have is to improve my negotiation skills.

As you finalize your first job or internship, now is a great time to think about the value of negotiation. One statistic states that about 7 percent of women attempted to negotiate their job offers, while 57 percent of men do. This certainly varies by industry, but in general women are not as aggressive about negotiating their salary and benefits. The value of negotiation didn’t fully resonate with me until after joining the professional world. If you start out without negotiating your salary but all of your coworkers negotiated, it can take years before you catch up to them. You are missing out on paying off loans or contributions to your savings, which will compound year after year. Raises and promotions are normally done as a percentage of your salary.

Even after knowing all of this going into my first job, I still fell into the trap of not attempting to negotiate my salary. Why? I was told that all entry-level employees start at the same salary and that subsequent raises are based on performance, so there is to be no negotiation. That sounded fair and reasonable to me, so I saw no reason to question it and accepted my offer. However, I have since learned that this is not the case. By not attempting to negotiate, all I did was ensure that I started on unequal footing with my peers. The worst thing that could have happened if I had asked is that I could have been told no. But I completely threw away my chance to start that conversation. While this is surprisingly common, it doesn’t need to happen. I know for some SWE members this seems like common sense, but for many of us it is still hard to implement.

Negotiation isn’t just about salary and benefits, either — it is a skill that is valuable in daily work and life. I am not an aggressive person, I can’t change my personality and that is okay. But I can still arm myself with tools to make it easier for me to negotiate and preserve my interests, and that is what I am planning to work on this year. If you find yourself identifying with this, you can make a promise to yourself to practice negotiating as well. I think negotiation is a life skill that isn’t taught nearly often enough.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments or ideas at

Ellen McIsaac

Ellen McIsaac
FY14 Collegiate Director

Letter from the All Together SWE Newsletter


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