How to Negotiate for the Salary You Deserve

What strategies can women negotiating a salary use? Discover the techniques professional women employ to secure the money they deserve at new or existing jobs.

How Women Can Negotiate Salary

Salary negotiations can be intimidating. Professional women negotiating a salary, however, need not let unnecessary hesitation due to gender bias get in the way.

Woman in business casual attire sitting with laptop

A recent report from Randstad found that nearly 60% of women never negotiate their pay at all. This is perhaps the biggest and most easily avoidable mistake any professional can make. Bargaining for an additional $6,000, for example, might not seem worth the risk. Nonetheless, compounded over the course of one’s career, that $6,000 amounts to a lot. 

Any woman hesitant to negotiate a salary should remember: Business leaders expect employees to negotiate. In addition, by doing so, women show they know their value as professionals.  

Preparation is key to securing raises or better counteroffers. Professional women negotiating salary offers or raises can avoid missteps and get the money they deserve by arming themselves with the right information, knowing what questions to ask, and following expert negotiating advice.

Statistics on the Current Gender Wage Gap

When it comes to wages, the reality is that women earn less than men. In fact, according to calculations made by the Center for American Progress, women on average can expect to earn 82 cents to every dollar earned by men. Wage gaps become more pronounced for women of color. For every dollar a man earns:

  • Black women earn 62 cents
  • American Indian and Alaska Native women earn 57 cents
  • Latinx women earn 54 cents

Viewing the gender wage gap through the lens of pennies to the dollar sometimes hides what the discrepancy looks like in people’s lives. The Center for American Progress’s calculations examined current U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and found that on average the gap meant annually women earn $10,194 less than men. Over the span of a 40-year career, that adds up to a $407,760 pay gap.

Notably, pay gaps increase substantially for women of color:

  • Black women earn $23,540 less a year, $941,600 less over a 40-year career span
  • Latinx women earn $28,036 less a year, $1,121,440 less over a 40-year career span
  • American Indian and Alaska Native women earn $25,884 less a year, $1,035,360 less over a 40-year career span

For more insight about the differences in pay between genders, professional women can also consult PayScale’s 2020 “Gender Pay Gap Report”. The report offers details about the gender pay gap when controlled for factors such as job title, industry, years of experience, location, and so on.

The discrepancy in pay for women highlights the importance of ensuring equitable pay for all employees. By effectively advocating for themselves in salary negotiations, professional women can work toward eliminating the gender pay gap and securing competitive salaries.

Tips for Women Negotiating Their Salary

Professional women manage different types of salary negotiations. After receiving an initial job offer, they have the opportunity to negotiate their starting salary. Women who are existing employees can also regularly renegotiate their salaries.

Tips for Negotiating Starting Salaries

Professional women considering a job offer should assess offers carefully. This involves evaluating how an offer stacks up against a current position, as well as against other potential offers. Additionally, professional women should keep in mind that compensation includes more than just a salary.

Benefits and perks — everything from a new laptop to funds to create a home office to matching 401K contributions — hold significant value. Professional women can address these and other benefits as part of their salary negations.

Get to Know the Current Salary Trends for the Industry

Negotiating a salary requires assertiveness. Unfortunately, when women take on assertive behaviors they often face a certain amount of social backlash. That’s because they’re not conforming to gender stereotypes that suggest they should be accommodating. As a result, women may not be inclined to advocate for themselves as they should.

How can women deal with this?

Numerous studies suggest women fare better in salary negotiations when they have a clear sense of the position’s actual salary range in the market. This information makes them less likely to slip into a gender-conforming role and more likely to let the facts guide their negotiating moves. 

For this reason, professional women need to enter negotiations with accurate information about the current salary trends for their industry. By consulting current salary guides, they can discover what companies are paying for particular positions and levels of experience.

A salary guide allows professional women to:

  • Compare hundreds of starting salaries in their market
  • Learn about the most coveted skills
  • Find out about the market demand for their position

With this information, professional women can better leverage their skill set or understand their limitations. To adjust salaries for geographic location, they can turn to Robert Half’s salary calculators or PayScale’s free salary report. These tools give even more insight about the going salary rates for positions.    

Back a Counteroffer with Evidence of Your Worth

Women negotiating salaries need to make a strong case as to why prospective employers should invest in them. In addition to countering with a higher salary figure, they also need to detail the value they bring to the company.

For example, by detailing concrete examples of their skills and experience, they can discuss:

  • How they will serve as an asset in addressing company challenges
  • The unique capacities that set them apart that can drive organizational success

Additionally, they can discuss their special training and certifications supporting their case for a higher salary.

Rehearse Your Pitch

Coming across as calm and self-assured is key to a successful salary negotiation. By practicing key talking points with a mentor or friend who is experienced in the corporate world, professional women negotiating salaries can smooth out rough spots in their delivery and be ready to field unexpected questions.

Tips for Renegotiating Salaries

Asking for a raise can be anxiety provoking. Still, professional women can’t afford to avoid this important conversation. However, getting the timing right is important.

To gauge when to ask for a raise, professional women should consider factors ranging from what’s going on in their companies to the last time they got a salary boost. If they consider the right questions, their chances of getting the raise they want will increase.

The following tips can also improve the chances of successfully negotiating a raise:

Track Your Accomplishments

Just as professional women negotiating initial salaries must establish their value to the company, so must those asking for a raise. A great way for employees to clarify their worth is by tracking their accomplishments.

In an itemized spreadsheet or journal professional women can record:

  • Major projects
  • Successful deals
  • Satisfied clients
  • Saved resources and money
  • Improvements in efficiency
  • Revenue generated
  • Avoided mishaps

All these accomplishments serve as quantifiable evidence that an employee is adding value to an organization. Professional women can prioritize building a strategy to add value to their organizations, then leverage their accomplishments to negotiate higher pay.

Communicate Your Aspirations

Organizations are more likely to give raises to individuals who appear to have systematically worked toward them. That being the case, professional women should regularly communicate their professional goals and aspirations to their supervisors.

If they share their goals with their supervisors, professional women can build stronger relationships with them. They can also engage actively with their supervisors in a goal-setting and review process. Employee goal sharing allows a supervisor to see employee motivation firsthand and brings employee accomplishments to the forefront. As a result, supervisors are more likely to champion an employee who is seeking a raise.

Reassess Your Current Position and Its Market Value

Over time, professionals learn new skills and take on new duties. Jobs evolve, even over a period of a few months.

Before asking for a raise, professional women should revisit their current job description and assess in what ways their work has changed and developed. Then, based on their findings, they should conduct research to evaluate whether their current job title still reflects their actual duties.

Using a tool like Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth salary calculator, professional women can investigate salaries of positions similar to theirs adjusted for factors such as geographic location and job responsibilities. This research will allow professional women to get a better understanding of where their salary ranks given how their position has evolved.

Women negotiating salary should also take into account other circumstances including:

  • Years of experience
  • Company size
  • Company’s financial state

With this information, women professionals can present an appropriate salary range and make a stronger case for a raise.

Sample Salary Negotiation Conversations 

Communication plays a vital role in salary negotiations. Knowing what to say and how to say it can make or break a deal. The following conversations, common questions, and rebuttals can help in a salary negotiation.

Useful Questions to Ask When Negotiating an Initial Offer

Professional women negotiating salary offers can ask strategic questions that give them leveraging power. Consider how the following questions reveal valuable information:

"How Was This Salary Calculated?”

This question helps professional women discern how negotiable a salary figure is. It also allows them to tactfully point out any inaccuracies in the figure’s calculation. For example, if an interviewer explains they calculated a salary based on specific skills and years of experience, a candidate can point out an overlooked skill or year of experience.

“What Is the Outlook for Future Raises and Promotions?”

This question helps professional women predict the growth potential of a position and its salary. If an interviewer offers a promising salary but indicates it will remain fixed, a candidate may reconsider accepting the position. Conversely, candidates may find a lower salary offer that comes with an aggressive promotion and raise program is advantageous.

“How Are Raises Calculated for the Organization’s Highest Performers?”

This question helps potential employees get clarification about the highest salary figure they can expect if they accept a position.

Sample Conversations for Negotiating Initial Offers

Conversations with prospective employers vary. The following scripts can serve as useful tools for professional women negotiating salary offers.

How to Make a Counteroffer

“I appreciate the offer and I’m excited to hear you want me to join your team. However, I’d like a chance to discuss the offered compensation package. I’ve looked into the current market value for the position. Based on my experience and qualifications, I would be most comfortable with a starting salary of $X.”

“I’m very enthusiastic about this opportunity and looking forward to becoming part of the team. However, the salary falls considerably short of my last one, and I need to make sure I receive fair compensation. Given my qualifications and experience, and the current market value for the position, a higher salary range of $X to $X makes sense. I’d eagerly accept the position if you could raise the offer by $X.”

How to Manage Salary Expectation Questions Without Leaving Money on the Table

Knowing how to effectively answer questions about salary expectations can ensure professional women negotiating salaries get competitive offers. Deflecting direct questions about one’s current salary is often a good idea. When prospective employers don’t have a salary starting point, job candidates often get higher initial offers.

Some effective responses to questions about current or expected salaries include:

“I would prefer discussing the value I can bring to this organization instead of focusing on the salary of my current position.”

“I envision this opportunity as a big move forward for me in terms of responsibility and compensation. I’d like to hear the salary range you’re prepared to offer.”

Things to Say When Asking for a Raise

When asking for a raise, requesting a dedicated meeting is advisable. This helps ensure greater attention from a supervisor and demonstrates a respect for their time. At the meeting, begin a conversation about compensation. The following examples offer ideas.

Opening the Conversation

“Thank you for meeting with me today. I’m very enthusiastic about the projects I’ve been working on. I’d like to share some of my successes with you as well as discuss my salary.”

Getting into the Details

“Since my last raise, I’ve worked on several successful projects that have added value to the organization. For example, I [describe your most notable achievement]. These accomplishments warrant compensation.”

“I’ve researched the average salaries for my position in this city and examined my current responsibilities, skill set, and years of experience. Based on my findings, an X% raise would be appropriate.”

Supervisor Responses and Rebuttals

  • Supervisor: “I appreciate your hard work and recognize your contributions. Unfortunately, the raise you’re requesting isn’t possible at the moment.”
    Employee: “Can you provide more information about why an X% raise isn’t possible right now?”
  • Supervisor: “I recognize your accomplishments, but unfortunately our current budget doesn’t allow for such a raise. However, I’d be happy to support such an increase in the future.”
    Employee: “That’s reasonable. What I’m hearing is that my request is appropriate but not at this moment. What can I do to help support that increase in the near future?”

Plan to Negotiate a Competitive Salary

Strategic planning gives professional women negotiating salary offers and raises a definite advantage. By researching current market values, anticipating and preparing for questions posed by employers, and prepping thoughtful answers and talking points, professional women can achieve their highest salary potentials.