How Women Can and Should Negotiate a Better Salary

By Anna Yen

Your income is an ego-boosting reward that might even affect your credit. During the hiring process, negotiating is so common that 70% of senior managers do not expect you to accept their initial offer. Even if you get a salary you’re proud of, eventually you may still hit a point where your compensation does not reflect the value of your work. 

Unfortunately, many women leave money on the table because of fear or lack of confidence. 

While it’s scary to ask for a better offer or a raise, learning negotiation skills and backing up your request with solid evidence just might pay off. 

Prepare your negotiation skills

Before you go to an interview or a promotion meeting, be prepared. Try rehearsing what you want to say before the big day until you can deliver your case, even if you’re nervous. 

Summarize your accomplishments to demonstrate your value and support your request for additional compensation. Follow up by highlighting what you want to do for the company in the future. 

She Negotiates and Fearless Salary Negotiation both have handy tips and prep sheets for negotiations.

Know your worth

You will have a better chance at fair compensation if you research the going rate in your market. An experienced hiring manager will have the upper hand if you enter a salary negotiation without knowing your market value.

Check out online sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, and PayScale, or talk to peers and recruiters in related fields to come up with a number. You might want to build in a little buffer above your desired number since employers will try to negotiate down.

Don’t give the first number

Negotiation tactic number one: don’t speak first. Wait for your boss or interviewer to put an offer on the table first. If you decide on a number, say $50,000/year and the budget is $60,000, you sold yourself short on an extra $10,000/year.

Avoid sharing current salary

If the interviewer asks about your current or previous pay, avoid sharing information. Recruiters may use this number to make an offer, so you may end up with a lower offer if you name a price right away. 

Instead of giving a number, refocus the conversation back to discussing how much the market is willing to pay for your skills. A potential reply would be: “I’d prefer to focus on the value I can add to the company, not my current salary.” 

The recruiter’s response could help you assess whether the employer is bargain hunting or would be unable to afford your desired compensation.

Use finesse in your words

Always start on a positive note during negotiations. Start by telling your boss or interviewer how much you look forward to growing with the company in the future. If you feel awkward about doing this, practice with friends or family members and ask for constructive criticism to make sure you don’t come off arrogant and demanding. 

You want to create the impression that you’re receptive and confident, so you have to choose your words with care. Mentally prepare to show gratitude and enthusiasm even if the offer is lower than what you expected – sulking leaves a bad impression. 

Negotiate in benefits

The money on your paycheck does not reflect your whole salary. Ask your interviewer or boss what other benefits are negotiable aside from the base pay. Think work flexibility, career development, incentives and bonuses, company-supported work-life balance, higher education reimbursement, health-related perks, childcare, insurances, 401K match, and stock options when trying to find the perfect job. These extras are valuable options that could make up for lower base pay.

Be prepared for pushback

During the negotiation process, you may get what you want on your first try but it’s normal to face rejection. If your boss says no, be prepared to explain why you deserve a specific salary and back it up with market research, your past performance, and your value-add to the company’s goals, productivity, and revenue.

While lobbying for higher compensation, don’t forget to pay attention to what your manager is saying. Understanding management’s position helps you find a solution that benefits both sides. However, be prepared to walk away if you can’t get an acceptable offer.

Evaluate offer

Got an offer? Congratulations! If needed, ask for 24 to 48 hours to review the offer. Use this time to evaluate whether you should accept the counteroffer or not.

Don’t expect the new offer to tick off all the boxes, but consider whether you are willing to live with the trade-offs. If the terms don’t align with your personal goals, turn down the offer politely.

Help close the gender wage gap

Fighting for compensation that reflects what you’re worth is critical to bridge the gender wage gap. Over a working woman’s lifetime, she and her family miss out on an estimated $700,000 to $2 million, which in turn impacts debt, social security, retirement and pensions.

Despite the pay disparity, 60% of women have never negotiated their salary with their employer and would rather leave the company to get a pay increase elsewhere. By learning to negotiate, it’s possible to stay and grow with a company while getting the compensation you deserve.

Revisit yearly

Negotiating compensation should not be a one-time thing. Revisit your responsibilities, salary, performance, and market compensation every year. If you are a valuable asset and you’ve taken on responsibilities that led to higher company earnings, fight for a higher salary.

Secure the pay that reflects your value

When your salary no longer makes sense according to your value, it’s time to talk about pay with your boss or hiring manager. Sharp negotiation skills help women close the gender pay gap and receive fair wages.  Addressing this disparity is an important step towards empowering women.

Women likely feel confident taking charge of family finances as breadwinners brandishing solid money habits. Earning a higher salary provides a strong foundation, and investing wisely can help your savings grow. 

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