We’ve all heard them before. The excuses justifying wage gap. “Women choose to go into fields that don’t pay well.” “Women choose family over their careers more often than men.” “Women choose not to ask for what they want.” We just choose to make less apparently. Of course all of these excuses are incredibly flawed and inaccurate, but that doesn’t take the sting out.
Especially when you consider that, as a woman, bucking the stereotype and actually asking for what you want can lead to negative ramifications. In 2014, the New Yorker reported on a series of studies conducted by Harvard and Carnegie Mellon University, which found:
“People penalized women who initiated negotiations for higher compensation more than they did men.”
It’s disheartening. But it doesn’t mean we should stop asking. While we may face negative consequences when we negotiate, the consequences of accepting the status quo are far greater. That wage gap is never going to close if we don’t do some pushing.
Understand Everything is Negotiable
As women, we tend to be rule followers. “No” means “no.” And “non-negotiable” means “non-negotiable.” But compensation is almost always negotiable. Employers naturally want to get your talent at the lowest possible rate. We can’t blame them for that. It’s business. But that’s exactly why we should assume there’s room for negotiation—even if we’re told there’s not.
Put a Number on Your Value
It can be easy to feel like your employer is doing you a favor by paying you a salary. Especially if you love what you do. But they wouldn’t be paying you anything at all if you weren’t bringing value to the table. The trick is recognizing that value and putting an actual price tag on it.
The transparency provided by the internet makes this easier than ever. Glassdoor has a tool specifically designed to help you “Know Your Worth.” Understanding where you fit within the marketplace can give you more confidence in the number you’re asking for.
Document That Value
Another way to approach negotiations with more confidence is documenting the value you bring to the team. Having tangible evidence and data to back up your performance can take emotion and fear out of the equation.
This is something you can start doing well before you’re ready to go to the table with a figure. Start by setting career milestones and discuss them with your boss. As you reach each of those milestones, it will become difficult for your employer to deny the value you offer.
Determine What You Want and Know Where You Can Compromise
Salary is just one aspect of compensation. Beyond a dollar figure, you should decide if you’re prepared to accept other perks in exchange for a lower number. These perks might include vacation, remote working flexibility, seasonal bonuses, half-day Fridays, tuition reimbursement, and pretty much anything you’re willing to accept in lieu of a dollar amount.
You should also have a sense of what you’ll do if you don’t get what you want/deserve out of the negotiations. Will you walk that day? Start looking for another position? Revisit the conversation again mid-year? There is no wrong way to handle it (aside from storming out in a hurricane of anger) but you should have a plan B before going into the room.
Practice on a Friend
Knowing what you’re going to say and being prepared for the pushback will, again, make you feel more confident going into the room. Plus, women tend to be better advocates for others than we are for ourselves. You can ask the friend you’re practicing on what they might say on your behalf and incorporate those bullet points into your negotiations. It also can’t hurt to have someone to bolster you before you make the big ask.
Don’t Negotiate Against Yourself
As people-pleasers, women have a tendency to try to find the compromise in every situation. But that’s not your job in a negotiation. Let your employer counter. Let them find the middle ground. The silence after presenting your case can be uncomfortable, but if you’re confident in your worth, you shouldn’t be afraid to sit in the silence as they formulate a response.
Overall, a positive attitude in negotiations can only work in your favor. If you go in thinking you’re never going to get what you’re asking for, chances are you won’t. Also, excitement and positivity about the work itself as well as what you’re able to contribute can help counteract the—unwarranted but undeniable—biases that make it so difficult for women to negotiate in the first place.
/Written by Eliza Green