Debi Hemmeter

Debi Hemmeter

Women in Leadership Advocate

San Francisco, CA

It’s important to have confidence in yourself and to negotiate for what you deserve. Finding a win/win solution for both you and your organization is the most effective way to achieve this.


Early in my career, I worked at a Fortune 50 company in sales and marketing. The day came when I was offered a promotion to National Account Manager. This was my dream job. I would be calling on the biggest accounts for a highly respected brand and would have significant P&L (profit and loss) accountability. I would not only be the youngest person in this job, I would also be the only woman in the country holding the position. It was an exciting opportunity and I accepted immediately.

That evening, a senior executive at the company, who was also a friend and mentor of mine, took me out to dinner to celebrate. During our conversation, it was revealed that although my new position included a significant raise, I was being placed in a lower pay band than others in the role because of my lack of experience. My friend encouraged me to re-negotiate my compensation package immediately.

Fear washed over me as I thought about asking for a better deal. What if I lost the position as I attempted to improve my situation? Starting off on the wrong foot could make my life difficult in a new department. As dinner progressed, I realized it was up to me to negotiate a fair package—no one else was going to do it for me. I spent the entire evening preparing my thoughts and finding the inner strength to stand up for myself.

Early the next morning, I met with my new boss to renegotiate my compensation package. He quickly pointed out I had far less experience than any of my counterparts and, therefore, was being appropriately compensated. I pushed back, noting that regardless of my experience, I was being held to the same goals as my counterparts. He was unmoved. I took a deep breath and gave him two options to consider: One, reduce my goals in proportion to the reduced compensation or two, hold my goals steady and adjust my compensation accordingly. In other words, I asked that he let the burden of experience be mine to overcome by proving myself on the job.

I maintained eye contact and did not squirm. He stared at me silently for what felt like an hour. Finally, he chose my second option and moved my compensation to parity with my counterparts, a level that took my breath away at such a young age. He said, “if you can negotiate for yourself like that, you are going to do one hell of a job for our shareholders.” I left his office that day feeling we had established a mutual level of respect. I not only exceeded my goals that year, two and a half years later, I was running the entire department.

Over time, I’ve discovered that women do a great job negotiating for others, but rarely advocate for themselves. It’s important to have confidence in yourself and to negotiate for what you deserve. Finding a win/win solution for both you and your organization is the most effective way to achieve this.

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