How Women Can Get the Salary They Deserve

Have you heard? Women still get paid less than men.

In fact, Economic Policy Institute reports that women earn an average of 22% less per hour than men — even when controlling for race, education, experience and location.

Although a myriad of societal and economic factors contribute to the wage gap, you have direct control over one important thing: the amount of money you ask for. According to a recent survey by Robert Half, only 46% of men and 34% of women negotiated their starting salaries. And, Glassdoor estimates that by not negotiating, the average worker leaves $7,500 — or 13.3% of their salary — on the table.

While you can’t go back in time and negotiate your starting pay, you can aim to get a raise this year. Here’s advice from three salary negotiation experts on how to get paid what you deserve.

Determine What You’re Bringing to the Table

Before asking for a raise, Kathlyn Hart, financial empowerment coach and creator of Be Brave Get Paid, says you need to figure out why you deserve one.

“You can’t just say, ‘Oh I work hard,’ because everyone works hard,” she says.

Specifically, you should ask yourself:

  • What are your job duties? How are you excelling beyond them?
  • How has your work — either by cutting costs or boosting profits — improved the company’s bottom line?

“At the end of the day, a raise can only be merited because you’re helping your company move further,” she says. “Or because you’re holding responsibilities above and beyond your current job description.”

Jacqueline Twillie, a negotiation strategist, also recommends aligning your contributions with your company’s quarterly and annual priorities.

“Get clear on how your work plays into the overall objectives. Managers really want to know that employees are buying in,” says Twillie.

Communicate With Your Boss

If you have regular meetings with your supervisor, get straight to the point — and acknowledge that you’d like a future raise or promotion, says Ashley Paré, the CEO and founder of Own Your Worth.

For example, asking your boss: “What else do you need from me…to advocate on my behalf?” will give you “clarity on where they stand in supporting you and your performance.”

Twillie agrees. “When you’re in a one-on-one with your boss, tell her about your career aspirations and find out what it will take for you to get there,” she says.

“Then level up in those areas, clearly communicating along the way that you’re expecting a promotion or raise.”

Be sure to amplify any positive feedback, too.

“Accept the compliment and share it with your direct supervisor. If you downplay your contributions, so will everyone else,” Twillie says.

Do Your Research

Once you’ve taken the necessary actions to merit a raise, it’s time to determine your target number.

Websites like Salary.com, Payscale, and Glassdoor will give you a salary range based on your industry, job title, education, and years of experience. To pinpoint where you fall, consider the amount of value you bring to the company.

“As women, we’ll naturally cut ourselves a little bit short,” says Hart.

“I always encourage [upping] your expectations a little bit. For any salary negotiation, you’re always going to start higher and come down. You don’t want to negotiate against yourself before the negotiation has even happened,” she says.

Prepare Your Case

If you’re afraid of negotiation, the best armor you have is information.

Paré suggests asking peers, mentors, and other leaders how your organization generally handles raises and promotions. If you can grab coffee with someone who recently went through the process, even better.

“The more you know up front, the less stressful the experience will be,” says Paré.

Hart advises preparing a one-pager that outlines your accomplishments and your competitive research. Twillie recommends including metrics that are important to your manager, too. (You can determine those by paying attention to what they reference in emails and meetings.)

“Negotiation is a conversation — not a battle — and the more information you’ve gathered prior to the discussion, the better-informed [case] you’ll be able to make,” says Twillie.

Practice Your Pitch

Whatever you do, don’t wing it with your ask.

“Write out exactly what you plan to say in the meeting, then practice the pitch out loud. Feeling confident is key,” says Paré.

Both Paré and Twillie suggest recording yourself on your phone, then listening to the playback and tweaking your delivery.

Hart also urges raise-seeking women to “look for ways to negotiate outside your job.” At a restaurant, for example, you could ask for a side of ranch after your server has already come to the table. Or you could ask for a slight alteration to your Starbucks order — after it has already been rung up.

She says pushing your boundaries in these small ways will help you conquer the “fear of asking for more” that nearly all of us have.

Crush Your Meeting

It’s almost showtime. To schedule a conversation with your boss, Hart suggests saying: “I want to set up a meeting to talk about my future with the company.”

Then, once you’re in the meeting, avoid diving straight into the salary talk.

Instead, Hart says you should discuss the following:

  • What you’ve accomplished over the past year
  • How much you’ve enjoyed being a part of the company
  • What you’re most proud of
  • What you’re excited to tackle next

“When a company gives you a raise, it’s not just based on your past,” explains Hart.

“It’s also on your promise for what you’re delivering in the future… [Your manager] is really looking to not only reward what you’ve done, but also show you they’re looking forward to you continuing to contribute,” she says.

Only after highlighting your accomplishments and goals should you ask something like: “Moving forward, what could my compensation look like?”

Usually, Hart says it’s better to leave the discussion open and see what your manager offers. If, however, you’re trying to justify a big leap in pay, then she suggests starting from that high number and seeing where she can meet you.

Accept Your Fears

Still nervous? That’s totally normal.

To combat your anxiety, Paré suggests identifying your biggest fear. Are you worried about “ruining” your relationship with your boss? Are you afraid you don’t deserve more?

“You’re capable of handling any outcome. So face your fear and take action anyway,” says Paré.

To push yourself, imagine how it would feel to pay 10% more on your student loans each month, or to accumulate thousands of dollars in extra savings over the next few years.

Hart also notes that, when you make an ask, you’ll nearly always be successful in some way. Even if you don’t get the raise you were looking for, you’ll gain the knowledge or confidence to land one in the future.

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” she says, adding that it’s important to “be brave.”

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