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International Women’s Day: A guide to negotiating a higher salary

Studies show women are less likely to negotiate salary due to fear of backlash

Meredith Clark
New York
Tuesday 08 March 2022 22:28 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Negotiating your salary can be a difficult process, especially for women. Not only does a persisting gender pay gap show that women make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, but studies have found that women are also less likely to negotiate their salary out of fear of backlash from their employer.

On International Women’s Day, people are calling attention to the inequality faced by women in the workplace. The onus is not on individual women to eliminate a gender pay gap that’s been perpetuated by decades of discriminatory practices. But, by learning how to negotiate salary, women can begin demanding their rightful compensation in a workplace environment that encourages pay transparency.

According to Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of the book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, there are four steps to negotiating a raise or higher salary.

Think about what you want to negotiate

“I think people really need to take stock of what it is that’s really going to help them in their career and make them most happy,” Professor Babcock told The Independent. “There are lots of things that people could negotiate about, and most people do focus on negotiating salary, but there’s lots of other things that actually could be really beneficial for women to negotiate about.”

Apart from salary, negotiating for paid time off, a flexible work schedule, the ability to work remotely, childcare reimbursement, or student loan repayment are all important aspects to consider when accepting a job offer or compromising with your current one. Salary is not the only benefit that is up for negotiation.

Janell Oudenhoven, a compensation professional and founder of Janell Knows Money, agrees with this first step. “Before even going into negotiation, you need to decide which of those things are the absolute most important thing to you, so that you can focus on those and make your ask appropriately,” she told us.

Do your homework

Before negotiating with your employer, it’s important to do your research. Connect with other members of your company to find out how much they make per year. If that feels too awkward or uncomfortable, try asking people what they think you ought to earn in your current position.

“Someone who is within the organisation might have a sense and be willing to tell you what the range of salaries would be for people in positions like yours,” said Babcock.

Websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed are known for company reviews and can provide further information about how much a professional within your industry should be making annually. Some state laws even mandate employers to disclose a position’s salary range in the job listing.

Understand your employer’s perspective

A crucial step to any negotiation process is to anticipate your partner’s every move. That includes understanding your employer’s concerns when it comes to offering you a higher salary.

“That will really help you to plan a strategy because if I know what you’re worried about when saying yes to me, I can maybe frame it in a way or provide an alternative that alleviates that concern,” Professor Babcock said.

Apply a cooperative approach

Negotiating for a higher salary should not be a competitive back and forth between you and your employer. Rather, see this process as a collaborative partnership where each member has something to gain.

Oudenhoven refers to this as a soft negotiation. “I always ask if someone is open to having a conversation about negotiating,” she said. “I feel like it eases people into having the conversation a little bit more, as if it’s their choice whether or not they want to have that conversation.”

There’s two outcomes to every salary negotiation. One, you accept your company’s offer. Or two, you’re presented with a salary number that isn’t to your liking. Before making any final decision, Oudenhoven recommends taking a few days to review the offer.

“Ask if they can send you the offer in writing via email, along with any type of benefits guide, or additional things that could be considered part of the total compensation package,” she said.

No company is the same, and every employer has different standards when it comes to pay transparency. But having open and honest conversations about compensation upfront can ensure that women are set up for future success and help work towards closing the gender pay gap.

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