For many years, when I was in situations where I could negotiate my role, my responsibilities  and compensation, I just didn’t do it. I felt very uncomfortable advocating for myself, especially when it came to financial matters. I thought it was uncool. And it’s not just me. I see this when we are hiring women, and I have learned from my peers, that even at the most senior levels, such as board seats, women do not negotiate. According to Randstad, 60 percent of women say they’ve never negotiated their salary, compared to only 48 percent of men. 

It was not until much later that I learned that it is actually very cool and empowering to advocate for yourself, asking for the role, responsibilities and compensation you deserve. And to this day, I coach the women (and men) on my team to always negotiate. 

Here are a few actionable things you can do

1. Research the data and come equipped with the facts when you ask: there is a lot of information out there, take the time to collect data about compensation and appropriate job titles for your level of experience an contributions. Get advance from mentors or friendly recruiter.

2. When you ask, don’t be apologetic: women tend to hedge and ask for permission.  Write down your ask and practice it so you can deliver with confidence. You come with the facts, you know you deserve it .  

3. When offered a position, always negotiate. Ask for more salary, more equity, a better title, more responsibilities, better benefits. Often, women are afraid to ask because they worry that by asking they risk the whole deal. In reality, by asking, you open the door for a conversation. Don’t ever forget: if you get a job offer, they want you and it’s expected that you negotiate. 

4. Be proactive. When you are in a job and delivering great results, be proactive and ask for a raise, more equity or even a promotion. Again, come prepared with the facts.

5. Ask for speaker fees. When asked to speak at an event or panel, ask the organizers about comp. Often there is a budget set aside for speaker fees, but if you don’t ask, they will not offer.  

Last but not least, get over yourself. Many women suffer from imposter syndrome. I do and honestly I still struggle with all of the above. This is a reminder on International Women’s Day, and during Women’s History Month, to choose to challenge yourself and not let that stand in the way of what you deserve. Advocating for yourself is very empowering!


  • Rana el Kaliouby, Ph.D., is a pioneer in artificial emotional intelligence (Emotion AI), the Deputy CEO of Smart Eye, and formerly, the Co-Founder and CEO of Affectiva, the acclaimed AI startup spun off from the MIT Media Lab. She grew up in Cairo, Egypt. After earning an undergraduate and masters degree in computer science at the American University in Cairo, she attended Cambridge University where she earned her Ph.D. Afterwards, she joined the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist, where she spearheaded the application of emotion recognition technology in a variety of fields, including mental health and autism. Her company Affectiva, which was acquired by Smart Eye in June 2021, works with more than a quarter of the companies in the Fortune Global 500. An acclaimed TED talk and Aspen Ideas speaker, Rana has been profiled in The New Yorker, interviewed by Tim Ferriss, named by Forbes to their list of America's Top 50 Women in Tech, and selected by Fortune for their list of 40 under 40. In 2018 she was the cohost of a PBS Nova series, and in 2019 she appeared in a YouTube Originals Series, “The Age of AI,” hosted by Robert Downey Jr. She lives just outside of Boston with her two kids.