You don't have to be a victim of the gender pay gap — fight for the salary you deserve.
In just about every industry, and across locations and positions, men often earn more than women. According to the US Census, in 2018, women earned 81.6 cents to every dollar earned by men.
To narrow the gender wage gap, 19 states and 21 local municipalities have enacted salary history bans — laws that prevent employers from asking candidates their salary history. The idea is that when hiring managers can't use a candidate's current or past compensation to set pay, they're less likely to offer a deflated salary.
Though salary history bans do their part to improve gender pay equality, legislation is only one possible remedy; how and when men and women negotiate also contributes to the gender wage gap. In fact, a 2020 Randstad study found that 60 percent of women have never negotiated their pay, compared to only 48 percent of men.
While some women don't negotiate enough or not at all, others are simply not as successful when it comes to negotiating a job offer or a salary increase.
This may be because of the “social cost” of negotiating. That is, in some cases, women may not negotiate successfully because of an awareness of the possible career-limiting penalties for doing so, like a weaker relationship with their manager or other forms of retaliation.
However, the reality is that women can successfully negotiate without penalty. By approaching negotiations differently and learning a few essential skills, you can be on your way to more equitable pay. Here are seven salary negotiation tips to help you earn the compensation you deserve:
1. Understand the cost of not negotiating
According to a Glassdoor study, the average employee could be earning as much as 13 percent more per year than their current annual base salary. When you factor in the gender pay gap, you could be leaving even more money on the table by not negotiating.
And the cost of not negotiating adds up over time. A ZipRecruiter analysis even found that negotiating a starting salary of $45,000 rather than $40,000 translates into additional lifetime earnings of over $750,000 over a 45-year career. By not asking for your worth today, you potentially deprive yourself of sizeable earnings in the future.
2. Be prepared
It's essential to do your research before you enter a salary negotiation. The more prepared you are, the greater the chances of a favorable outcome. The following sites can help you understand the competitive salary range for your position:
In addition to researching industry norms online, talking to a mentor or people in your network can help you understand salary precedent, as well as the negotiation challenges you may encounter.
By doing some necessary investigative work upfront, you ground your argument in concrete facts — not just a vague sense that you deserve better pay.
3. Find the right time
Once you've done your research and developed a ballpark idea of the salary you want to negotiate, you will need to plan your approach carefully. Factors such as your individual performance, company performance, and the external job market will impact how and when you approach your manager for a salary discussion.
Some times are better than others. For example, you might want to approach a salary discussion after you've just hit a home run on a big project, you've learned a new skill, or you suspect your peers are earning more.
4. Make a strong pitch
If negotiating your salary feels uncomfortable, spend time developing a pitch and practicing it until you're satisfied. You can go over it with a trusted friend or colleague, or record yourself to see where you need to make adjustments.
As you develop a compelling pitch, be sure to focus on the following areas:
Don't apologize: Instead of saying, “I'm sorry to ask at a time like this,” or “I know the budget may be tight,” clearly state what you want to accomplish and make your case.
Use affirmative statements: Rather than using phrases such as, “I think” and “maybe,” take a more assertive tone, and use “I propose” or “My goals include.”
Exude confidence: Whether you are negotiating on the phone or in person, speak clearly and at a pace that's not too fast for the listener. If you're speaking to your manager in person, use eye contact and make your pitch without nervous filler words such as “um” and “like.”
5. Use silence as a strategic tool
While it may feel natural to shoot for a quick salary negotiation, you increase your chances of a more favorable resolution when you're not pushing for an immediate “yes.” In a negotiation, some people require more time than others to process information, so allowing for pauses (even uncomfortable ones) can be one of your best negotiation tools.
Instead of trying to fill the silence in a conversation, wait until the other person speaks. When given time to formulate a response, the other person will be able to process what you've said rather than saying the first thing that pops into their head. Allowing silence also prevents you from over-explaining and appearing defensive.
6. Listen actively
Listening is a required element in any successful negotiation, but it's much more than nodding your head or smiling in agreement.
To make sure you hear what the other person is saying, use active listening to demonstrate that you understand. Showing that you possess strong listening skills also helps show why you're worth a higher salary and that you're ready to take on bigger challenges at work.
You can use active listening by taking the following actions:
Use clarifying statements and ask questions to demonstrate your understanding
Withhold judgment until the other person has finished making their point
7. Don't give up
Not every negotiation will yield your desired outcome, so it's important not to give up. Your next salary negotiation opportunity can come in your current position — or the next one.
In the meantime, take the time to practice and improve your negotiation skills. You can start small and negotiate in low-risk settings, such as returning a purchase, requesting a discount on your cable bill, or asking for an upgrade at a hotel.
There are also resources available to help, and many are tailored specifically to women. Some examples include:
Lean In, which offers several videos and discussion guides to help women improve their negotiation skills.
Get That Raise, which provides tools to analyze your salary and request a raise.
Art of Feminine Negotiation, which features a podcast series covering a range of negotiation scenarios.
Negotiation is an art you can improve and eventually master. For a successful salary negotiation, you'll need to come prepared, make a strong pitch, and focus the conversation on finding the optimal solution.
Negotiation is a give and take, and both sides will rarely get everything they want. But by applying these tips, you can get closer to your goal of aligning your earnings with your worth.
Does your resume reflect why you deserve the higher salary? Our expert resume writers can make sure it does.
This article was updated in September 2020. It was originally written by Natalia Autenrieth.