If you are a woman, you are likely earning less than your male colleagues. Even for the exact same role and responsibilities. Are you happy about that? Of course not. The good news is, you can do something about it. In a fundamentally patriarchal society, salary negotiation for women is often trickier than for men. Read on for our tips so that you approach the issue fully armored. You will find advice on how to work out your number, build your case for a higher salary, find the right time for negotiation, and leverage cognitive bias. Most of these tips will prove to be useful when negotiating your salary for a new job too.
The Gender Pay Gap Is Real
Recent research shows that when comparing median salaries, women still make only 82 cents for every dollar men make. Thankfully, when we compare men and women doing the same or similar jobs, women make 98 cents for every dollar a man earns. Over a lifetime, these 2 cents’ difference adds up to a big impact on retirement savings and financial security.
Women are not a homogenous group; race and sexuality also count as factors in pay differences. Women of color earn 97 cents for every dollar a white man earns.
While I don’t have the answers to dismantling the patriarchy, I do have one tactic to fight the wage gap:
Salary negotiation for women: a complex challenge
Women actually ask for higher salaries just as often as men, but are less likely to get them. According to the Harvard Business Review, women are rewarded with a raise after asking just 15 percent of the time, while men’s salaries are increased 20 percent of the time after asking. Salary negotiation for women seems to be a more complex challenge altogether.
Gender discrimination in the workplace is rooted in societal structures that reward gender-based behaviors such as strength in men and care in women. Think of a male boss who is described as a great leader for making the tough calls, a woman presenting the same behaviors is labeled as “controlling”.
Such myths affect and harm both men and women. A simple example of this is the way small tasks around the office are managed. After a meeting it is not out of place, even expected, that female colleagues will tidy up the room. Male workers, on the other hand, may be ridiculed, or labeled “soft” for engaging in this “domestic labor.” It takes serious work, education, and effort to make the required structural changes to destroy these myths.
Women have a much harder task in negotiating salary than their male counterparts – but don’t let the challenge stop you from trying. If you feel underpaid, dare to ask for more.
Here are our top 10 tips for approaching the issue – especially for women.
1. Be Prepared
Hopefully, this article will provide some inspiration to ask for a pay raise. But please don’t march into your manager’s office the moment you finish reading.
Successfully negotiating a higher salary requires careful planning.
Use a data-driven approach to your research and lean into your network for advice, feedback, and support.
Consider what is the worst that can happen. No decent manager will fault you for trying. Advocating for yourself should be seen as a desirable quality.
2. Find a Number
So you are not happy with your current salary and want higher pay. But exactly how much higher? Presenting a number to your manager as part of your salary increase request is central to your success. If you ask for too much, you are likely to be rejected without much negotiation. Asking for too little will undermine your hard work. Finding the right number requires intense and focussed research. For starters, there are brilliant online pay calculator tools and salary comparison sites, many of which have dedicated functions for women, such as Inhersight and Ladiesgetpaid.
To gain insight about your local job market and pay scales, tap into local networks and contacts, asking both women and men you might know in similar positions to yours. Money can be an awkward topic for many. Asking for a salary range might be easier than exact amounts.
You’ll need to record this information in a way that you can present in your negotiation to show your request is based on fact. Finding out the salaries of your co-workers is also really helpful here. If you discover that a male coworker is earning far more than you for a similar task and know-how, be sure to bring it up. Avoid going personal or directly blaming anyone – there may be other factors in play you are not aware of.
3. Turn Anchoring Bias in Your Favor
Understanding the power of your number is crucial. Harvard researchers have coined the term “anchoring bias” to describe the phenomenon when too much emphasis is placed on the first number in a discussion and the way this first number can heavily influence the outcome of the discussion. They found that the first person to name a number has the opportunity to shift the negotiation in their favor.
You can turn this knowledge in your favor. Leverage it by offering your own number first and counter it by having some strong responses up your sleeve to an offered anchor. In the first case, it pays to ask for more than you would be happy to settle for. The amount should be within the zone of possible agreement. This zone is a salary range generally understood by both sides, even if it remains unarticulated.
Making a confident first offer will most likely anchor the discussion to your advantage. Otherwise, it is essential to diffuse the power of the anchor by a clear and strong response. If someone opens the discussion with a salary increase of 1% but you want to counter with 5% you first need to make clear that 1% is not even a reasonable offer. “I respect your time, but we are miles apart on this figure.”
If you don’t dismantle the anchor first you are accepting that 1% is within your negotiation zone.
4. Build Your Case
As well as showing evidence of how your pay raise number is based on data-driven research, you need to demonstrate your hard work and value within the company. Unfortunately, in many cases for women, this requires more effort than for their male counterparts.
Prepare a file that documents all your work-related achievements in the last 12 months or so. Think about what achievement means from a variety of angles. Not only meeting or exceeding deadlines and goals but times when you improved processes, increased productivity, skills, or provided emotional support in ways that go beyond your job description. Assess yourself and think about how you bring additional value to your workplace.
5. Make an Offer They Cannot Refuse
A pay raise request will be infinitely more successful if you can pitch it to your manager in a way that highlights the quantifiable effect your increased loyalty and motivation will have on the company.
Use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when speaking to show that you see yourself as an integrated part of the team. Use the language of value. Clearly show how a pay raise for you is going to have much bigger benefits for them. If possible, use real sales figures here to show that your salary is a much smaller investment than the return they will receive.
6. Expect the Unexpected
Some research suggests women are less successful at asking for salary increases because they are less experienced in negotiation.
Don’t limit yourself to imagining only a yes or no answer to your request. Think through your request and consider all types of possible scenarios. This might include a different kind of offer, a job title change, or a request for more evidence. Prepare yourself for the unexpected so you won’t be thrown off your game.
7. Hone Your Negotiation Skills
In an ideal world, salary negotiation would be straightforward: you make a case for yourself, you are judged fairly, and given an appropriate response.
Unfortunately, this is far from reality. Asking for a pay raise is a complicated negotiation that involves many factors, many of which are out of your control. If you don’t have any negotiating experience, it’s absolutely worth the effort to put yourself through a little training course. Stanford University via Alison is a good resource.
But also recognize you are starting on an uneven playing field. Sexism is real and you are likely to face it in scenarios where your male managers may feel threatened. In other words, once again, you need to work harder than your male counterparts to achieve the same result.
Some quick tips for improving your negotiation skills:
- Be an active listener
- Don’t be afraid of silence
- Always stay objective
8. Cultivate Positive Emotions
Go into your meeting with your endorphins flowing by using a technique called positive priming. This requires you to focus on the positive aspects of your life or happy past memories.
Mindfulness or the awareness of the present moment is the best way to tune into your own emotions as well as the emotions of those around you. This can help boost your advantage in a negotiation by empowering you with confidence which in turn boosts your ability to articulate your needs.
Mindfulness training often includes meditation. Don’t drop into a trance mid-conversation – but a few subtle deep breaths can return your attention if things start to get stressful.
9. Know When to Ask
When you request the meeting can be crucial. Consider both the company’s position and the personal habits and preferences of your manager.
For the company, choose a time in the financial year when things are positive. The middle of the year might yield better results than the beginning or end. Arm yourself with some financial insight about the company before heading in. Did they have a big increase in profit last year? Are they on track to do the same?
Also, try and determine if any other pay raises were made in the last few months. Be clear with your manager that you want to speak about your compensation.
10. Make an Impact
Go into the meeting with a positive and objective position. You are not demanding something for yourself. You are negotiating something for the benefit of the company. Invite conversation, while remaining firm about your position.
Some possible opening lines:
- “I’ve been reflecting on my last 12 months of work, my salary history, and feel like I am inline for a pay raise. What are your thoughts on this?”
- “Thank you for making this time to meet with me. I am really enjoying my current role and responsibilities and am excited to continue to work ambitiously and as a result, I would like to discuss my salary.”
- “Thank you for meeting with me. I’d like to share with you some of my recent achievements and discuss my salary increase. Does that sound fair?”
I hope these salary negotiation tips for women have helped fuel your confidence. If your company isn’t ready for your sense of self-worth, head over to Lensa where millions of jobs await. Remember: these tactics are also useful when negotiating your starting salary and compensation package with the hiring manager upon receiving a new job offer.