Top 8 Salary Negotiation Tips for Women

salary negotiation tips for women
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If you are a woman, you are likely earning less than your male colleagues. Even for the exact some role and responsibilities.

Are you happy about that?

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.

This is better, but still a significant 2 cents. Over a lifetime, this has a big impact on retirement savings and financial security. Even more frustratingly, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forumit will be at least 99 years before the gap closes if the pace doesn’t change.

Women are not a homogenous group; race and sexuality also play a role 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 try and close this gap:

Salary negotiation!

The myth that women don’t get because they don’t ask has been destroyed. Women ask for salary increases just as much as men, but are just 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.

Gender discrimination in the workplace is a maddeningly complex issue with roots 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,” or a “see.”

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, maybe 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. There are plenty of resources online for workplaces that want to work against gender discrimination.

Women have a much harder task in asking for a raise than their male counterparts – but don’t let the challenge stop you from trying. Here are our top 8 salary negotiation tips for women.

Salary Negotiation Tip 1: Be Prepared

women and negotiationHopefully, 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 pay raise requires careful planning. 

Preparation will pay off at every step of the way towards a bigger salary.. Take this task seriously, because the results, good or bad, will greatly influence your future career. 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.


Salary Negotiation Tip 2: Find a Number

So you want a pay raise, but how much? Finding a number to present 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 and asking for two little will undermine all your careful hard work. While we all probably feel like we are worth a million dollars, finding the right number is a case of intense and focussed research. It’s important to use a variety of resources for this. There are brilliant online pay calculator tools and salary comparison sites, many of which have dedicated functions for women, such as Inhersight and Ladiesgetpaid. These sites will help set the ballpark figure for you, but be aware of their tendency to the generic.

Choosing the number for your pay raise requires industry-specific research as well as knowledge of your local job market. To get this knowledge, you’ll need to tap into local networks and contacts. Start with asking both women and men you might know in similarly placed positions in other companies. Money can be an awkward topic for many, so asking for a pay range might be easier than directly trying to find out what someone earns. Looking for similar positions on local job boards might provide some clues too.

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 in this research you discover you have a male coworker who’s earning far more than you for a similar task, be sure to bring it up seriously without blaming your direct manager, who is unlikely to have been the one responsible. There may be other factors about that person’s salary you are not aware of. Try to avoid directly comparing your salary to others unless there is a clear company policy.

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 in lab research that the first person to name a number has the opportunity to shift the negotiation in their favor.

You can counter this in two ways, by offering your own number first and second by having some strong responses up your sleeve to reduce the power of an anchor presented by the other side. In the first case, it pays to ask for more than you would be happy to settle for within the zone of possible agreement (ZOPA). ZOPA is the space between the highest and lowest number both parties understand is possible. This zone is not articulated by is generally understood by both sides.

Making a confident first offer will most likely anchor the discussion to your advantage. In the second case, it’s essential to diffuse the power of the anchor by clearly and strongly. For example, 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.

Salary Negotiation Tip 3: 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.

build your case

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.

A friend recently had a performance review in which she reminded her boss that she had implemented the practice of team planking. She started the practice by inviting her whole team to “plank” for 12 minutes every day at 3 p.m. She asked her boss as part of her review to ask each of her other teammates to share their experiences with the new planking habit. Almost all her colleagues reported it made them feel mentally and physically better in the afternoon, more connected to their teammates, and generally fitter. These benefits are hard to document but have a huge impact on overall company success. Be creative about how you bring additional value to your workplace.

Salary Negotiation Tip 4: Make an Offer They Can’t 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. The Harvard Business Review describes this as “Negotiating Communally.” 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. 

This is also a good opportunity to demonstrate to the company and to your manager the additional benefits of increasing your salary. Show how you bring value with less tangible qualities, such as loyalty and a knack for maintaining team morale.


Salary Negotiation Tip 5: 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 if that situation arises. 


Salary Negotiation Tip 6: Become a Better Negotiator

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, or dive into a full book such as The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

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.

salary negotiation tips for women

Learning some tools will boost your confidence before the big meeting as well as assist you in your mission.

Some quick tips for improving your negotiation skills:

  • Be an active listener
  • Don’t be afraid of silence
  • Stay objective

The Harvard Business Review has analyzed recent research on gender in the workplace to offer some additional tips on to augment your negotiation skills:

  • cultivating positive emotions
  • boosting emotional intelligence

Being in a positive mood has shown to improve people’s ability to seek mutually beneficial outcomes. A study also showed that students who were prompted to remember a joyful memory before an exam performed better than their peers in the control group.  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 breathes can return your attention if things start to get stressful. 

Salary Negotiation Tip 7: Know When to Ask

When you choose the meeting might be your greatest weapon. Consider both the company’s position and the personal habits and preferences of your manager or anyone else you need to have in the meeting. 

For the company, choose a time in the financial year when things are positive. Early on, or at the end might not work if there is financial stress. In the middle of the year might yield better results if things are on track. It would pay to arm yourself with some financial information 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 to whom and how much. Be clear with your manager that you want to speak about your compensation. Here are some lines you could use in the meeting request.

  • “Can we allocate some time in my performance review to discuss my compensation?”
  • “I’d like to have a short meeting with you about my compensation. Please let me know if this time works for you.”

Salary Negotiation Tip 8: Make an Impact

Go into the meeting with a positive and objective position. You aren’t demanding something for yourself. You are negotiating something for the benefit of the company. Invite conversation, while remaining firm about your position. 

Here are some possible opening lines.

make an impact

  • “I’ve been reflecting on my last 12 months of work 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’d 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 a salary increase. Does that sound fair?”

Ready to take on your next pay raise negotiation? I hope these 8 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. We’d love to hear if these tips helped you secure your salary increase. Get in touch and let us know.

Jessica Miley

Jessica Miley

Jess Miley is a freelance blogger and founder of Ways Art Residency. She is excited about the good, the bad and the ugly of AI and its effect on how we work. Ask her for a new podcast recommendation.

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