By Valerie Martinelli, MPA – Leadership, Life, & Career Coach/ HR & Management Consultant 

Women talk less than men. It is only a societal myth that we talk more. When was the last meeting you went to in which the women spoke longer and in more detail? In my professional experience, it is rare. It has been suggested that having more women on a board or an executive staff means more talking. This just simply is not true.

So, what does the lack of speaking up do to a career? It directly affects your earnings because it does not work to your advantage or put you in line for a promotion. I emphasize confidence in my coaching because it is the trait that will get you the farthest in your career. Confidence in the workplace will allow you to tackle issues with positivity and dignity.

Why Confidence?

Confidence refers to your mindset which knows what you’re doing, what you’re best at, your values, and practicing it in such a way that it conveys to others. Confidence helps you to accept reality and uphold positivity to balance between success and failure. It is crucial to preserve a fine line of balance between high and low degrees of self-confidence. This is an essential and a healthy practice in the workplace.

Confidence is the key to success and a basis for a high level of productivity. The workplace should be an environment in which you could display confidence without restraint. Confidence is not just intended for leaders and to be good leaders; it is also intended for team members and those who are directly benefiting from your leadership. Self-confidence applies to anyone, male or female, who wants to lead an assertive career. This pertains to how many work achievements you already have accomplished in your career and on the many more goals you have set for yourself.

Confidence is not something that you were born with or inherited. Although, our environment and upbringing do play a large role in our confidence levels, you may also want to consider how your levels of determination help to shape your goals and ultimately, your achievements. It also is important for you to take the initiative and encourage yourself to develop confidence. Once you have mastered this, it will reflect in your productivity and professional growth.

Confidence should never appear as overbearing or egocentric.

Confident individuals are thriving individuals who can be role models for others to follow. They become mentors and are the ones who stand out in a crowd. Asserting confidence will put you on the path towards professional success.

So, what happens if you’re not confident and do not speak up in the workplace?

Leave It All on The Table

Do you know how to negotiate? Have you ever done so in your career? Could you do it confidently? When we lack confidence in the workplace, ultimately it comes back in our earnings. We do not give our employer a reason why we should be selected for an extra project, a promotion, or to manage a large client. If you are unable to negotiate for a higher salary, additional time off, or time to work from home then you will be left behind by your male counterparts. Without this skill, how much are you leaving on the table? How much has that added to up to over time?

A study conducted in 2014 demonstrated that confidence may not be directly to blame but rather the way women are treated. However, if you are confident, how would you handle mistreatment? How would you conduct yourself? Would it be differently than expected? My professional opinion is that confidence still plays a significant role because many wouldn’t even try if they didn’t feel confident enough in their skills. So, while women may feel reluctant to even try due to the high social cost, there is the possibility of negotiating successfully.

Explain to your negotiating partner why it is legitimate for you to be doing so. Be sure to look them in the eyes when doing this. You also want to signal to them that you care about organizational relationships because this conveys your belief that you and your partner are on the same team. Relational accounts can help you make a better impression and get you what you want. It is best to develop an “I-We” strategy that makes sense for your context and feels true to you.

I also teach my clients to be willing to come in halfway and/ or be willing to make a concession and re-visit it at a later date. If you truly care about organizational relationships then you must remember what the most important thing you’re negotiating for is. An “all or nothing” approach simply will not win over your partner because it is not in the best interest of the organization or your co-workers. I always advise my clients who are seeking a raise to do some research. What are the comps for your position and your location? I also suggest having that on hand with you while negotiating.

I prep my clients through role play because if you stumble, make an error, or have a question I would rather be there to assist you and continue to practice until you feel prepared.

What are the Numbers?

A 2016 Glassdoor survey found that 59 percent of American employees accepted the salary that they were first offered and did not attempt to negotiate. This survey also found:

  • Women negotiate less than men: 68 percent of women accepted the salary that they were offered and did not attempt to negotiate. This is a 16-percentage point difference when compared to our male counterparts.
  • Age plays a role: According to this survey, older workers, aged 45-54, negotiated their salaries less frequently than younger workers. 66 percent measured accepted their initial offer and did not negotiate. The data only gets worse. 77 percent of women in this age group stated that they accepted their initial salary offer and did not negotiate.


These findings substantiate a negotiation gap between men and women, which only increases with age. This is a significant finding considering the gender pay gap only intensifies with age. Women are leaving money on the table. This brings us back to why women need to speak up early and often. Make it a habit. Become confident in the workplace because you are earning your voice. Please remember, if you don’t use your voice then someone else will be more than happy to use theirs for you.


Valerie Martinelli, MPA is the CEO & Owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC and Founder of Innovate 50/50. Connect with Val on Twitter @AskVMC or via website