Friday Feature: The Swing Shift

Equal Pay Day is April 10th and this month we're are all about salary negotiations and working towards pay parity. For our first April Friday Feature we talked to The Swing Shift's co-founders, Nancy McSharry Jensen and Sarah Duenwald (below).                                                             

You can find Nancy (below) and Sarah working out of our Capitol Hill location where they also hold The Swing Shift's Career Catalyst workshops. This Friday, we talked with them about The Riveter, salary negotiations and our movement towards equal pay.

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Tell us about your journeys joining The Riveter.

Barcy Fisher and Debbie Collins were in The Swing Shift’s first cohort when we were at UW’s CoMotion Labs. They were the ones who told us about this new totally cool women-focused space; we subsequently met Amy and Kim as they were fundraising. As The Swing Shift grew, we needed a place to run our business and the mission alignment just made sense on multiple levels. We were one of The Riveter’s first memberships in the Capitol Hill space, and here we are a year later!

What are a few of your favorite things about The Riveter?

Nancy: The location is perfect for me personally; close to my house and my kids’ schools. I like that I can have coffee meetings and host larger events in the same space. I’ve met and made friends with people in both the Fremont and Cap Hill location and that was a pleasant surprise.

Sarah: I love that both locations are in vibrant but very different neighborhoods. Both are also fairly convenient for me. I also enjoy visiting with other women (and men!) working on such amazing’s very motivating!

Tell us about yourselves! Include 3 fun facts.

Nancy: I’m a Boston native and the accent comes out strong after a cocktail. I use LimeBike to get around town; yes, I’m that lady you see pedaling home in full heels at 9 pm after networking meetings. It makes me crazy when women are underpaid.

Sarah: I grew up in the PNW and could not imagine living anywhere else.  My family and I escape to the mountains most weekends, and I enjoy almost all activities that include wine.  

Tell us about your work and how both of your paths led you to founding The Swing Shift. What was the hardest thing about starting your own business? What is the most rewarding?

Nancy:  I’ve opened a series of businesses on both coasts for IDC, Microsoft and now with Sarah. The hardest thing is the up and down of start-up life - those “mood swings” are exhilarating and exhausting. The most rewarding part for me is twofold: working with our cohorts as well as with the larger Seattle work community.

Sarah: I found myself in a career transition after my second child. Coming from tech consulting, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my next steps to be. Turns out MANY women feel this way.  Nancy and I were introduced, and over coffee, we realized there was an opportunity to make a difference for women in the workplace. The biggest reward for me is The Swing Shift community. These women are incredible, and I am lucky to play a part in their journey. The hardest thing for me was realizing my comfort zone was a thing of the past, but I’m getting used to living outside of it on a daily basis.

Tell us about a time in your careers where you failed and how it changed your lives. What did you do to overcome it? What did you learn?

Nancy: I was running four product management groups at Microsoft, on a director track. The incoming VP reorganized the business and offered me an individual contributor role. I was mortified and incredibly angry. I publicly supported the decision, but left the company. I learned that taking the high road in the face of difficulty is the only productive way to move forward, and decided I would be in charge of my own professional destiny moving forward.

What does Equal Pay Day mean to you?

Nancy: 100% pay parity. Mic drop. Money is so much more than a transactional exchange. It’s a signifier of your social value. It’s a reflection of your self worth.

Sarah:  Equal pay means so much more than just the money.  It’s about equal respect, equal promotions, and equal say (not just a seat!) in the boardroom.

What are your favorite tips/tricks to help with salary negotiations?

Nancy: I love love love Payscale. Its negotiation guide walks you through various scenarios and lets you do research on rates and ranges. In addition to Payscale, I also look at Glassdoor and use LinkedIn to see who you know at the company; ask them who they know, and what to expect. I write talking points on a 3x5 card and/or notes on my phone.  I also always advise that before you engage in the transactional conversation, practice. Get comfortable with silences and refrain from rushing in to fill them in. When you get what you think might be the final offer, ask “Is that the best you can do?” Remember: once someone is offering you a job, you are in the highest negotiating position you will have. Use it to your advantage.

Sarah:  Do your research!  Utilize companies such as Payscale and Glassdoor to research what pay ranges are for that role. Don’t get hung up on what you have made in the past and definitely don’t use that as a starting point. Make sure your starting point is market value for the role you are interviewing for...this will also set you up for success in the future. Think about what is important to you as an individual. Is it pay? Is it flexibility? Stock Options?  All of this is negotiable…give and get where it’s most important to you, and it could be a win for both you and the hiring manager.

How can we support other women in negotiating and achieving equal pay?

Nancy: Be brave and talk about money. Own your own money. Be ready to ask for more. Suze Orman has on-point guidance about managing your money.

Sarah:  Have very candid conversations with each other. Make sure you are approachable and open to discuss pay specifics. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from experts who coach people through the negotiation process.  With our work at The Swing Shift we have been lucky enough to work with a few amazing negotiation professionals who know the current landscape and can mentor you through the process.

In your perspective, what actionable steps can women and advocates take to close the gender pay gap

Nancy: Do your research. If you are a hiring manager, compensate on an equitable basis.

Sarah:  If you are in a position of hiring, understand that not all women have the confidence or the current skills to negotiate. If you can help them understand their value and encourage them, you are helping the larger population of women. Help them understand they are worth more. Encourage them along the way.  They in turn will do the same for others because you showed them how.