We recently caught up with the ultimate powerhouse Wies Bratby – known as the ultimate negotiator…with everyone except her own kids…! Wies is a top lawyer-turned-HR Director-turned-coach-slash-Consultant who talks us through advice and tips for women looking to forward their careers and positions.
Through her coaching and consulting practise, Women in Negotiation, Wies helps women across the globe realise their worth, communicate it and get them the positions and salaries they want through her online group coaching programme. Wies is also President of Lean in Switzerland, a sought after keynote speaker and workshop trainer inspiring women to proactively negotiate what they want.
Could you Explain Who you are and what you do?
I am from the Netherlands and my husband is English, I have 2 daughters. In short, I teach women to negotiate their worth. I focus on women in their career and salary negotiations. Recently I branched out to working with female entrepreneurs who are providing a service and making sure they get paid a lot for their work as an entrepreneur. My goal is to end the gender wage gap whilst having fun helping women step into their confidence. I only work with women.
What Made you go into this Line of Work in the First Place?
Steve Jobs talks about how you can connect the dots in your career and I wanted to help with that. I’ve always been obsessed with negotiation from a young age, I thought I was going to change the world so I went into law school then I joined the biggest law firm in the Netherlands thinking through law I could change the world. I ended up paper pushing and got very bored. I went on to negotiate the largest settlement in the history of The Netherlands whilst a lawyer. Then I started being asked constantly to advise on achieving settlements. During this time I was still not happy doing what I was doing. I moved to HK where I couldn’t continue being a lawyer so I ended up working and setting up HR for a huge company. Through this role I taught people and trained them in negotiation skills. I found that wherever I was in the world, women always gathered around and said this is really important, how can I use your advice? Can I talk to you further about my situation? I’d experience the same thing, anywhere in the world – women saying “I suck at negotiation”. I did some research into the role of gender in negotiation and discovered it wasn’t just my friends having issues, its a global phenomenon. I have 2 daughters and read that it will take 100 years to end gender parity – I wanted to make an impact for my daughters. Let’s empower women individually to get the skills to take control of their careers so they’re no longer at the mercy of anyone else.
Does It make you Angry when you Hear Stories from Women about their Positions?
Yes, it’s so often the same story. It riles me that it can be so obvious and there’s so much talent that goes to waste. “I am undervalued” and “I am not getting opportunities” – why is this? Usually the reason is that ‘Bob’ down the corridor speaks up rather than actually doing the work. I see so many amazing women who have gifts to share with the world – the reason they can’t put it out there and share their talents is because people aren’t recognising that – women aren’t communicating it. The injustice is wrong as their talent and ambition is irrelevant when this happens.
What are your tips for anyone in a position now considering their work ‘position’?
Try not to get emotional and don’t bring drama. You need to prepare thoroughly – use role play to practise – have every scenario thrown at you by whoever you’re practising with. Don’t make it personal. Don’t take things personally. Men can more easily switch the switch, they can compartmentalise, they flip the switch because it’s ‘just business’. This is an area that we can definitely learn from the guys in that respect. You need to back yourself. Nobody else is going to do this for you so someone has to – so it might as well be you! Don’t be the devil’s advocate – drop an anchor, ask for a certain number then say “but it doesn’t matter if you can’t do that”…you’ve then added doubt – don’t be the person to minimise yourself.
What is your advice to women in a tricky position at the moment in lockdown?
During a crisis as huge as this, people go into collective fear mode, they’ll question what it means for their career and lives. I would warn against fear if possible, try not to project into the negative unknown. As people we’re ‘meaning making’ machines so aim for the positive. This has got to be seen as an opportunity – leverage that opportunity. We’re in a massive shift at the moment, it is happening to all of us globally, not just localised. When there’s a shift its likened to an earthquake, the tectonic plates start shifting and when those plates then settle they’ll never settle in the same place again. Gaps are created between the plates – this is what is happening to businesses – they are collectively readjusting and assessing. How should we change? What’s working for us? In those adjustments periods changes are made at a fundamental level so jump in, assess and see what changes can be made by you. How can I serve there and help there? Figure out if you can do work at a higher level than before. This then leads to a conversation about what someone at that level should get paid.
What’s your Advice on Finding a Job in this Climate?
See this as a great opportunity to have a look around, companies are definitely looking at their gaps. Don’t get disheartened, get excited because things in the world are shifting. The whole scattergun approach should be avoided, steer clear of applying for loads of things at same time just randomly through the internet. The online application process with no acknowledgment is a broken system. I would advise clients to not apply for jobs but firstly have conversations with people and discuss what issues they’re struggling with – is there room for you to help them fix issues? Think about where you want to take your future. Then look at your network, start with one person, speak with that one person. ‘Virtual coffee’ has become the new form of networking and chatting. In this climate people have time to talk at the moment and would welcome a ‘change’ from their routine/regular faces.
What Negotiating Skills can you Advise to Mums in Lockdown?!
I do not advise people to negotiate with their kids…! My toddlers rule my house! I would however advise you to negotiate with your partner during these times. Sit with your partner and negotiate with him/her about the setup you have together when taking care of the kids/the home. This is an incredibly important moment to put an end to the fact that women do ⅔ of housework and emotional labour – it needs sharing and dividing up. This has a massive effect on mental health, prolonged exposure to stress has massive effects on health. Negotiate the set up you have at home – the division should be fair. What works for us? What doesn’t work for us? Your free time should be valued and as protected as your partner’s. You must however lower your standards at the moment (and in the future). Try not to let ‘how things should be’ dictate your feelings – your way isn’t the only way and not necessarily the best way. Take your partner seriously when you have the conversation, lower your expectations for how ‘home’ should operate.
We thank Wies hugely for an incredibly interesting chat and useful and inspiring tips. If you’d like to reach out to Wies for further advice or enquire about her coaching please do contact her through instagram womeninnegotiation.