Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 19, 2020

Alumnae give advice on salary negotiation

By VIVIAN LI | February 27, 2020

The Whiting School of Engineering invited panelists Anita Samarth and Laura Bossi to discuss salary negotiation for women in industry, as part of the event series Hopkins Engineers Week on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Samarth is a graduate of the class of 1995 who majored in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering while at Hopkins. Since completing her undergraduate studies, Samarth has served in recruiting positions for many health-care firms. In recent years, Samarth has volunteered for the alumni group of the Whiting School of Engineering. Bossi is a graduate of the Carey Business School, where she earned a Master’s Degree in business administration. She is currently the director of marketing at MedStar and is responsible for recruiting primary health-care providers and marketing health-care services. The panelists shared advice for women to secure their salary, especially when entering male-dominant fields in engineering and technology.

“This is our third year doing this event,” Kim Dolan, director of constituent engagement for the Whiting School of Engineering, said in an interview with The News-Letter. “We select our panelists among volunteers of the alumni group, and we try to cover a wide variety: In the past we’ve had people in the academia come and speak, and this is our first year inviting someone with a business background.”

According to a 2018 study conducted by Visier, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Additionally, women also tend to settle for less pay when offered a job position. The panelists concluded that there are three major reasons that possibly lead to this issue. First, women set less aggressive goals for their salaries. Second, in the interview process, they make less assertive statements considering their abilities and expectations. Moreover, women tend to back off more easily when faced with oppositions and rejections.

Considering these three aspects, the panelists spoke about specific strategies that one could employ. During the talk, Samarth emphasized that it is important for students to do thorough research about pay so they could walk into an interview room with confidence.

“While there is so much information out there on the internet, one of the best sources of information is your peers,” she said.

She advised students to talk to their peers who are a year or two ahead of them in order to gain a more concrete understanding about salary offerings in the industry and for similar positions. In this way, one could confidently start at a reasonably high number during the interview.

“Also, understand your compensation is not just your salary – benefits are also a huge part of it,” Bossi said.

Bossi reminded students that benefits such as bonuses and coverage of health insurance are also important things to bring up in an negotiation.

Additionally, Samarth spoke about the fact that negotiation is a mutual process. In an interview, while the interviewers will put pressure on candidates, they also expect candidates to push on them. Samarth mentioned that in interviews with college graduates, she would sometimes grill them about their transcripts to see how they react under pressure. She would often end up hiring those who did not panic and were still able to keep the conversation going. Samarth therefore encouraged the students to also find opportunities in interviews to ask about where they might place among all the candidates or about future trajectories of the job.

Bossi also stressed the importance of showing one’s values to interviewers.

“Stay authentic but be the best you,” Bossi said.

She emphasized that one should demonstrate their skills by speaking in detail about their experiences and what they can bring to the company, so that their claims about their expected salary are more grounded.

The panelists later asked the audience about job or internship offerings that they are currently deciding on, in order to provide more negotiation techniques in context. Through mock scenarios, they demonstrated how statements can often be more powerful than questions. Additionally, Samarth and Bossi reminded the audience that although the pay for internships is often not negotiable, it is nevertheless an opportunity to learn more about possible offerings and promotions in the company.

To conclude the talk, the speakers reminded students that whether they decide to enter the academia, engineering or consulting field, the salary offered will definitely differ because it is a representation of the culture and the expectations. So they advised students not to be dejected if they are denied the position after their first few months, as this is simply a reflection that they might not fit the expectations.

Most of the audience were appreciative of the advice the speakers shared.

Freshman Aditi Kishore, who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering, said she found the talk useful, even as a first-year.

“As a freshman, I’m only here to dip my toes in salary negotiation,” she said. “But I think this is something to be aware of early on, especially since we are entering the male-dominant engineering field as women.”

Chase Lahr, another Mechanical Engineering freshman, agreed. 

“I also liked hearing upperclassmen talk about their experience in the work field and the demonstrations the panelists did with those actual examples really put the techniques in action,” he said. 

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