Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, and she sat down with us to tell us all about it.
What is Ask For It, and why should our readers know about it?
Ask For It is a boutique communications consulting firm. Our mission is to foster confidence and inspiration in leadership and life. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. We are based in New York City and work around the globe. Your readers should know about us because one of our areas of focus is teaching women to become skilled negotiators. In particular, we give women the tools they need to understand and close their personal wage gap. Did you know that the average woman needs to work 11 additional years to achieve income equality with her male counterpart? That’s just wrong.
What inspired you to get started with Ask For It?
When I was a junior in high school, someone gave me a copy of an influential psychology book called Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher. That was one of the first times I realized the differences between women and men mattered deeply to me. It was a long time before I allowed myself to acknowledge that there are formal ways to turn that feeling into action, much less a career. When Lean In came out, I read it practically in one sitting. I started a Lean In Circle – a small group of women who met monthly to support each other and discuss our careers – and that was my first taste of entrepreneurship.
My Circle had been meeting for about a year when a girlfriend and I had a lightning bolt moment over cocktails one night. We had been sharing stories of women we knew who hadn’t negotiated for various reasons, and we felt we had to do something about it. We started planning a one-time workshop where we’d bring in a guest speaker who was an expert in negotiation. Though her background is in corporate recruiting and HR and mine is in communications and training, we felt we weren’t qualified enough to do it ourselves. (Imposter syndrome is hard, you guys.) In the midst of this planning, I was laid off from my full time job. I had interviews and offers from other places, but I realized my heart wasn’t in it: this was my chance to dedicate myself to something that I care deeply about. If not me, who? If not now, when?
What do you consider to be one of the most important aspects of your work?
The opportunities I’ve had to work with high school girls are so meaningful to me. Something I’ve noticed across a wide variety of ages, ethnicities, gender and job function is that when it comes to self-advocacy, people are looking for two things: confidence and permission. I’ve been surprised to hear from successful executives that they, too, struggle with self-confidence. It’s a good reminder that how things look on the outside are not necessarily how they feel on the inside – and that message resonates particularly strongly with young women. I want them to know their feelings and needs matter and deserve to be met. And I hope that message stays with them as they get older and face new challenges.
What are your hopes for your future and the future of Ask For It?
Ask For It is coming up on a one-year milestone this August. I’m so proud to say that we’ve trained over 800 women and men to negotiate so far. We’ve worked in schools, with non-profits, with women’s interest groups, with companies and with individuals. Let me tell you, money can’t buy the feeling of deep personal satisfaction I have when a client comes back to tell me she’s achieved her goals and exceeded her expectations.
I love what I do and hope to continue reaching more women and men in different contexts and broader arenas. Though we started out focused exclusively on teaching women to negotiate and closing the gender wage gap, we’ve broadened the scope of our services. We’re starting to go into companies and work with leadership teams on persuasive communication, productive collaboration and respectful conflict management. It’s a similar skill set, executed in a variety of contexts.
I’m also a firm believer in lifting as you climb, so I also give back by mentoring and doing pro-bono work with non-profit organizations I admire, like She’s the First and the Girl Scouts Leadership Institute.