Women negotiate every day with their teams, customers and clients on ideas, projects, deadlines, contracts and more. And yet, when it comes to negotiating for themselves, they often don't. Asking for a higher salary during negotiations can be one of the more intimidating conversations you'll have, yet it's absolutely necessary for advancing your career.
Much has been written about women and the art of salary negotiations. A significant portion of the discussion has focused on the fact that women often don't even try to negotiate for a better compensation package. In fact, 60% of women say they've never negotiated their pay with an employer, according to a recent survey by Randstad North America.
Experts agree that women less often see their salaries as negotiable and that even when they do negotiate, their confidence in the outcome is much lower than that of men. (Sixty-one percent of men report feeling confident in negotiating for salary increases compared to only 53% of women.)
However, negotiation isn't a dirty word and these discussions shouldn't be considered optional. Employers actually expect new hires and employees alike to come to the bargaining table.
So, whether you are starting a new job, have received a promotion, or are making a career change, the opportunity to negotiate will arise at several stages of your career. Strengthening your bargaining muscle and growing confident in presenting your value is a critical skill for women to master.
Regardless of your level of work experience or negotiating confidence, here are four critical things to know about negotiating before you get started:
1. What challenges do women face when negotiating?
Many women are competing with deeply ingrained societal gender roles when it comes time to negotiate for raises and promotions. Culturally, where men are often taught from an early age to be assertive and competitive, women are taught to be accommodating to those around them and to backburner their own needs in the interest of others. In negotiations, many women are less practiced at asserting themselves than their male counterparts, and those that do may be seen by peers as domineering and selfish rather than confident and business-minded. This is commonly called the "double bind."
2. When is it appropriate to negotiate compensation?
Compensation is tied to performance, but compensation experts say women don't tout their accomplishments enough. You should make it a practice to keep a "brag list." Use it to jot down any major professional accomplishments you've made in your career. That way, when you're coming to the table to highlight your accomplishments and contributions to the organization — such as during an annual performance review — it will be easier for you to tie your successes to additional pay, and make the case for promotion.
Getting hired by a new company or receiving a promotion are the two most natural times to engage in salary negotiation discussions. When interviewing for a new job, wait until the organization has given you a formal written job offer before starting to negotiate pay. If you start negotiating salary and benefits before you get the offer, you may damage your chances of being offered the position, especially if the company is interviewing candidates who are willing to accept less.
Often, promotions come with an increase in pay. If yours doesn't, talk with your manager about what sort of raise typically comes with a promotion, and ask why your promotion doesn't. To bolster your case, bring your brag list and conduct research using a salary calculator to learn what your new job title pays in your area to ensure you are informed of the going rate for the role. When you have the discussion, ask your manager to create a timeline of benchmarks for you to achieve that will directly result in an increase in pay when the time comes.
3. What is the best way to approach compensation with your employer?
When it comes time to negotiate, frame the conversation communally, in terms of your overall benefit to the company. Show how you are impacting the company, tying your wins to increases in revenue, customer success, or other important metrics.
Come to the meeting confident and ready to have the conversation. Be ready to answer specific questions: How has your work led to an increase in revenue? How have your direct reports fared? Be prepared with hard data about how your performance has helped the company achieve its goals. The more evidence you have of your own positive impact at work, the better an argument you can build in favor of additional compensation.
4. Should I accept my employer's salary offer or negotiate further?
If you've done your homework, you should know what sort of raise will accompany a position. If the raise falls within that range, you could accept gracefully, or, if you don't feel the proposed raise is acceptable, counter their offer. To make an effective counteroffer, you'll want to have your data handy, and in fact, you could offer to do a salary presentation for your manager, arming them with data that can be used to negotiate with HR or your manager's superior.
You don't have to counter the offer immediately. You can take a short time to structure an effective negotiation strategy. Know where you want to get to, assemble your backup documentation to support your position, and then present your counter offer calmly.
5. What happens if my employer won't negotiate with me?
If your employer won't negotiate, you have to realize that the employer may not value you (or your position), or have a strict salary cap that can't be exceeded. At that point, you may want to talk with HR about whether the company is transparent about pay and benefits, and whether that information has been published. You may also want to look for another job with an employer who will reward your successes appropriately.