Negotiating can be a scary process, especially for women. According to the Harvard Business Review, men are eight times more likely than women to negotiate their salary or ask for a raise at work. Another study found women were nine times less likely than men to ask for more, even when they were given a range and offered a salary on the lower end of that range.
But a reluctance to ask can determine whether you climb the career ladder or stay on the bottom rungs. Money is a big part of life, and what you earn can determine your lifestyle and your path to long-term wealth. When you make more, you have the ability to save more, invest more, and provide more for your family and community. A small increase can mean bigger annual raises, and it can also carry over to a new employer, who is almost certain to ask, “What is your salary history?”
While women are less inclined to advocate for themselves, they are way better at negotiating on others’ behalves. A recent study asked men and women to negotiate a starting salary for themselves and for a colleague. It found that women asked for $7,000 less than the men in the study when negotiating for themselves, but asked for just as much as the men when they were negotiating for someone else. It’s time to use those skills we use for others to get us the pay that we deserve.
Decide To Negotiate
Always assume that your salary offer is negotiable, and don’t always accept the first offer. You have the education, skills, and experience to get the job done. Why not bank on all your years of hard work and education to ask for what you believe you are worth?
Do Your Research
Go into a negotiation armed with the information you need to advocate for what you want. Research your industry and determine what it customarily offers for your position, education, location, and qualifications. (A good place to start is Glassdoor.com, which lists different salary ranges based on profession.) If possible, find out other details like who you will be negotiating with so you can tailor your approach if necessary. Be prepared!
Articulate Your Value
Knowing what a typical salary is for your position is not enough information for a negotiation. You have to articulate why you deserve a raise or why the salary offered isn’t good enough. Think of all the value you add to your employer. If you are in business for yourself, think about the benefits—whether in increased revenue or added publicity—you’ll bring to your client. Make note of everything, major and minor, that you bring to the table. Do not short change yourself by undervaluing your worth. This is the time to talk yourself up and put all your chips on the table. Frame your negotiation as a win-win situation for both parties.
Use The “I-We” Strategy
The reason why women don’t negotiate their salary is because they sense that doing so could have a negative effect on the way they’re viewed by their superiors. (And unfortunately, that’s true—”the social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men,” according to the Harvard Business Review.)
But there is a way women can circumvent this—let’s admit it—sexist reality. Using the “I-We” strategy positions women as the community-minded team members evaluators want them to be. “’I-We’ strategy involves asking for what you want,” Hannah Riley Bowles of the HBR writes, “while signaling to your negotiating counterpart that you are also taking their perspective.”
Put your negotiations in communal terms: “First, you want to explain to your negotiating counterpart why—in their eyes—it’s legitimate for you to be negotiating (i.e., appropriate or justified under the circumstances).” Then affirm that you’re a committed member of the team, and not acting as a lone wolf on the hunt. Though problematic—we doubt men have to put on such an act to get a raise—research has shown it works.
Know What You Want
Get clear about what you need and deserve. What is most important to you (must have) and what is something you can be flexible on? You have to know what your ideal is and what you’re willing to walk away with if that number can’t be met.
Remember, negotiating may not always get you what you want or need. That’s why it’s important to determine if the less-than-ideal salary is more important to you than other benefits the position and employer may offer. Are you willing to take the initial salary offered without resentment? If not—and if you are not desperate for a job—it might be best to keep looking for better-paying opportunities. However if this is a dream job, and all your expectations line up except for the salary, there are other things you can negotiate for when the salary is locked in or non-negotiable:
- Does the employer offer signing bonuses?
- Can you request for a performance review and raise after six months instead of one year?
- Can you work from home a few days a month?
- Is the benefits program generous?
- Can you negotiate your job title?
- Can you expense attendance at industry events?
- Can you be reimbursed for additional training or association membership dues?
Go Big Or Go Home
Negotiation can be a game of offers, counter offers, and concessions. It’s important to always ask for more than you are willing to settle for so you both can walk back to a number that works for everyone. Negotiating is about moving towards a compromise; you may not get everything you want and your boss may not be able to give you everything you need. However, starting from your top range might get you closer to what you really need. Ask for more and you’ll get more. (But remember: While there is no rule of thumb for how much you should ask for, it’s important to realistically couple your target number with your research and qualifications.)
You have done your research and gathered the information you need. Now it’s time to practice. It is impossible to know how the conversation will actually unfold, but you can practice by role playing with a friend or family member. Role playing preps you for different scenarios and provides immediate feedback that you can use to improve your pitch.
Just Do It!
Being nervous doesn’t mean you’re not ready; it just means you’re getting out of your comfort zone. Go in and let the rest work itself out—you’ve got this. You’ll never know what you can get if you don’t ask.