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Women’s Equality Day: 4 Successful Women Tell You How to Ask for More

On August 26, 1920, Congress certified the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote. In the 97 years since, women have used their enfranchisement to push for laws that gave them greater economic security — but the struggle is far from over. We live in a world where just 6.4 percent of Fortune-500 CEOs are women. That’s 32 women total, out of 500 — and that’s a 50 percent increase from the previous year!
women's equality day
Image Credit: Fortune Live Media/Flickr

Then there’s the gender pay gap. The American Association of University Women notes that “the pay gap has barely budged in a decade,” and that at this rate, it will be 100 years before it closes completely. PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, shows that while the controlled pay gap is better than the often-quoted 77-cents-on-the-dollar statistic, the uncontrolled pay gap is actually slightly worse. When men and women have the same jobs and experience, women earn 98 cents for every dollar a man earns … but when we look at all men and women, women earn 76 cents to the dollar.

In part, this is because men are more likely to have high-paying jobs and less likely to take time out of their careers to care for family members, but it’s also because women take a greater hit when they do try to balance family and career.

The Social Cost of Negotiating

Bias also crops up in salary negotiations. PayScale’s data show that, contrary to popular opinion, women are only slightly less likely than men to ask for a raise (42 percent of women vs. 44 percent of men), and only slightly less likely to get one (74 percent of women vs. 77 percent of men). But, other studies have shown that women are also more likely to pay a social penalty when they ask for what they deserve.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“In repeated studies, the social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men,” writes Hannah Riley Bowles, director of the Woman and Power Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard Business Review. “Men can certainly overplay their hand and alienate negotiating counterparts. However, in most published studies, the social cost of negotiating for pay is not significant for men, while it is significant for women.”

Of course, if you don’t ask, you probably won’t get. So how do you negotiate successfully, in an environment where your negotiating partner might hold unconscious beliefs that stand in your way?

Advice From Famous Negotiators

When you ask for career advice, you talk to people whose careers you’d like to have. When you want to make more money, it only makes sense to take your cues from people who’ve negotiated successfully.

For instance:

1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

“I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining that they know that women often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer.” – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, via CareerBliss

2. Understand that sometimes, they’re the ones who’ll have to adjust.

“As you move up — as you engage more and more people in the company and take on broader roles — this idea of quote-unquote ‘looking the part’ becomes more and more of a challenge when you don’t look the part. But there’s nothing I can do, or wanted to do, about being a black female — I kind of like both of those things. So at the end of the day, the people who were around me had to do a little bit more adjusting than I did.” – Ursula Burns, Chairwoman and former CEO of Xerox, at NPR

3. Negotiate in a way that they can hear.

“One thing I would encourage women to do is to have a communal motivation for asking for more. If I’m a man and I’m negotiating a salary, I can talk about my competencies. What women need to do is yoke their competencies with a communal concern.” – Margaret A. Neale, Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, to The Muse.

4. Be balanced in your approach.

“I’m very honest — brutally honest. I always look at things from their point of view as well as mine. And I know when to walk away.” – Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, via BrainyQuote

Do you deserve a raise? Find out, by taking PayScale’s free Salary Survey.

Tell Us What You Think

What advice would you add? Talk to us on Twitter or leave a comment.

This post was updated from an earlier version previously published on PayScale.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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