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Negotiating While Female: How to Get the Salary You Deserve

First things first: despite what you might have heard, women are not worse negotiators than men. They're not even that much less likely to ask for a raise. Data collected for PayScale's Salary Negotiation Guide showed that women reported negotiating salary nearly as often as men: 42 percent of women and 45 percent of men said they'd asked for a raise in their current field. However, research has shown that women are penalized more severely in terms of social costs when they engage in behaviors that appear "aggressive" or "unlikeable" – such as, for example, asking for more cash.

First things first: despite what you might have heard, women are not worse negotiators than men. They’re not even that much less likely to ask for a raise. Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide showed that women reported negotiating salary nearly as often as men: 42 percent of women and 45 percent of men said they’d asked for a raise in their current field. However, research has shown that women are penalized more severely in terms of social costs when they engage in behaviors that appear “aggressive” or “unlikeable” – such as, for example, asking for more cash.

glass ceiling

(Photo Credit: Hernan Pinera/Flickr)

It’s not surprising, therefore, that women were more likely to report not asking for a raise because of discomfort discussing salary; 31 percent of women who didn’t negotiate listed this reason in their response to PayScale’s survey, compared to 23 percent of men. Their fears are well-founded: in one series of experiments, researchers found that both women and men were resistant to female negotiators.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In a perfect world, it would be on hiring managers to address their unconscious bias and treat everyone the same during salary negotiations. Here in the real world, sadly, we sometimes have to learn how to ask differently in order to get the salary we deserve and eliminate the gender pay gap for good.

1. Do your research.

Research from Hannah Riley Bowles and Kathleen McGinn at Harvard Business School shows that when women know more details going into a salary negotiation – like the pay range or average salary, for instance – they can negotiate just as successfully as men can,” writes Elizabeth Weingarten, Deputy Director of New America’s Better Life Lab and Global Gender Parity Initiative.

You can’t force your current organization, much less a potential employer, to adopt pay transparency and inform you about what others are paid for similar roles. You can, however, prepare yourself with as much data as possible before your meeting.

PayScale’s Salary Survey guides you through a series of questions and generates a free Salary Report that will help you compare apples to apples and find a fair range.

2. Write a script.

Know exactly what you’re going to say when you ask for more money, and practice. Here’s one example of a script from the Salary Negotiation Guide:

“In the past year, my role has grown. I’ve [added these job duties, plus exceeded these goals, added value in these specific ways, and managed these projects successfully]. Can we discuss increasing my compensation so that it’s more in line with what I’m doing now?”

You can find more scripts here, dealing with everything from the salary history trap to the best way to build a case for a higher number (without alienating the hiring manager).

3. Be like Mr. Spock.

One of the reasons gender stereotypes are so ridiculous is that it’s obviously incredibly reductive to say that all women are a certain way and all men are another way. You probably know men who cry at the drop of a hat and women who could lay off a company’s worth of employees without batting an eye. Ideally, we’d all be regarded as individuals, each of us a unique collection of positive and negative attributes and experiences that have nothing to do with cultural expectations.

In reality, well, that lens of perception still exists, and we have to deal with it. That means making sure that you don’t accidentally trigger any assumptions on the part of the hiring manager by doing or saying things that play into female stereotypes.

In short: be logical, not emotional. Don’t mention your personal circumstances, the effect your pay is having on your motivation and self-esteem, or betray any feelings about the proceedings. Rely on cold, hard data and have confidence in its ability to make your argument for you.

Then, when you get a salary that reflects your worth, vow to change things by fighting for pay transparency over the long haul. You can’t change the world in one meeting, but by ensuring you’re paid fairly, you’re doing your small part to make things a little bit better for everyone. 

Tell Us What You Think

What techniques would you add? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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