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Negotiating Salary: Tips For Professional Women

Negotiating Salary: Tips For Professional Women

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Although negotiating salary should come naturally to women, it’s not usually the case. We are good at handling all sorts of negotiations at home —the contractor we hire for the bathroom renovation, the amount of screen time allowed to our teenager if grades improve, the next vacation spot — but when it comes to negotiating salary, we’re not that great.

I would contend, however, that women in particular have all the critical skills necessary for successful negotiations in the workplace, top among which is negotiating salary. We’re consensus builders, emphatic, good listeners, and we have a collaborative style. The problem is that, too often, we don’t manage our careers as closely as we should and in not doing so we leave money on the table.

Why Does This Happen?

According to research, there are several key reasons why we stay away from negotiation situations:

  • Women perceive their circumstances as being fixed, out of their control —unlike men, who believe that everything is negotiable—therefore, they don’t attempt to negotiate for themselves. (Too often, women don’t even try to negotiate a salary offer, they just take it.)
  • Women’s sense of entitlement is weaker than men’s. For example, a well-known study conducted by two psychologists showed that women would pay themselves 19% less than males would for the same task.
  • Women don’t lobby for pay rises as much and as often as men do. When rises occur, bosses tend to give money to those who asked for it —usually men— and give a smaller share (if any at all!) to the women who didn’t ask.

How To Change Things Around

If you are committed to your career and you are serious about being recognized for your work, you will have to engage in negotiations along the way. Nobody will do it for you, so you might as well give it all you’ve got.

Here are a few things you can start doing right now:

  • Establish clear career goals for yourself and ask for what you need and what you want. This is harder to do if you are not sure of where you wish to take your career.
  • Check how much people in your industry and in similar positions with equivalent knowledge and experience are making. If you want to negotiate from a position of strength, it is critical to know where you stand in relation to your peers.
  • Before you meet with your boss to negotiate salary, make a list of what you’re willing to give up and what’s non-negotiable. Knowing your walk away point will help you discuss terms more easily.
  • Learn how to talk about your achievements in relation to how they affect your company’s bottom line. Whenever possible use numbers to quantify your accomplishments.
  • Anticipate questions that your boss will ask and work from a win-win perspective. What’s important to your manager? Why do they need you? What is the current demand for your position in the market?
  • See the potential to negotiate everything and everywhere both personally and professionally. Negotiating salary is never only about how much you make. Health benefits, flexible time, title, working from home, expense account, an assistant, and so on, are all items that you should consider negotiable.

This is not your grandmother’s workplace. It’s yours. It’s more flexible than even a few years ago, and companies everywhere are struggling to help their women advance. Let’s do what is in our hands to make sure we continue landing positions of leadership and that along the way we are compensated for our efforts as much as our male counterparts.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Mariela Dabbah

Mariela Dabbah is the award-winning, best-selling author of Find Your Inner Red Shoes: Step Into Your Own Style of Success (Penguin) and the CEO of the Red Shoe Movement: Women Supporting Women for Career Success.