How Women Can Negotiate a Higher Salary

Christel Deskins

You are doing excellent work. You have made valuable changes in your company and you have received praise from your boss and other colleagues. You have been offered a promotion. Being an ambitious woman, there is no doubt you will accept. You are excitedly telling your mentor when she asks, […]

You are doing excellent work. You have made valuable changes in your company and you have received praise from your boss and other colleagues. You have been offered a promotion. Being an ambitious woman, there is no doubt you will accept. You are excitedly telling your mentor when she asks, “So how much money are you going to ask for?”

Wait, what? You had not anticipated having to ask for anything. It is clear you deserve more money. A promotion comes with a raise, doesn’t it? I mean, your boss will already know how much more you deserve, right? Your promotion will surely not be overshadowed by the disrespect of not being offered more money. Isn’t it impolite to discuss money?

This is exactly how my third raise negotiation went. My first negotiation was feeble. I was offered $08.0 more per hour. I negotiated up to $1. At my second negotiation, I was offered the bottom of the salary range for a new job. My excitement about the mutual respect and camaraderie between my new employer and me instantly took a nosedive. I had assumed I would be given the top of the range because they were so excited that I was considering taking the job. Instead of taking the time to think about it, I politely accepted on the spot, like a good girl should. No arguments. No overinflated opinion of myself. Of course, if this awesome employer thought that was all I was worth, it must be true.

At my third negotiation, I was not comfortable with the impending money conversation and I wanted to avoid it. So, I did. I apparently had forgotten how avoiding it went the last time. Hurt, disappointment, even insult. I allowed the employer to make the decision, and I got nothing, no increase. When the verdict was announced, my mentor, standing behind my boss, watched wide-eyed in horror as I looked back and forth between her and my boss and said nothing.  She mouthed emphatically to me, “What are you doing?!?” I left the meeting shocked. I began rationalizing the lack of raise. I must not have been doing as well as I thought. This promotion must be a trial. At the end of 30 or 60 days, they will give me my raise, I told myself. Who am I to think I deserve one? I had only been working here for three months. My initial salary was much higher than at my prior job. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. How am I even working in a professional corporate accounting setting? I’m lucky to even be here. I was not even supposed to go to college. It is a wonder no one has found me out yet.

Imposter syndrome affects an estimated 70 percent of people at some point during their lives. In short, it is the feeling that you are a fraud. Everyone will soon find out that your achievements come from luck rather than skill. 

This was certainly how I felt in my new role. I was learning a lot, and fast. I did not see this negotiation for what it was. Negotiations are simply two or more parties making an equitable trade. It was my job to tell them what I was worth. Instead, I allowed them to take what they wanted from me and offer the least compensation. When I was disappointed with others’ assessment of my worth, I felt defeated and even tried to convince myself they were right.

Here are six tips for handling negotiations that I learned from my experiences:

  1. Do not fear or avoid having the money conversation. It is normal, necessary, and happening.
    1. Everyone expects to pay for goods and services. We all know nothing is free.
    2. Turn your anxiety into excitement. The symptoms are the same. Just change what you call them. It will be felt by the other party and excite them, too.
  2. Know the range that is on the table and decide what your number is before the meeting.
  3. Know your value and be able to communicate it.
    1. It is not bragging when you talk about tangible results.
  4. Whenever possible, have an ROI conversation.
    1. Use real numbers when talking about the money you saved or brought in for the last company you worked with.
  5. Be okay with walking away. Stress is created by accepting a low offer and then feeling resentful.

During my fourth salary negotiation, I accepted my insulting increase and started looking for another job. My boss was upset, and I explained how the lack of salary increases made me feel. My resulting increase was “unheard of,” according to friends in the industry. I continued to negotiate these unheard-of increases going forward. Talking with my boss about how insulting my raises were was far more humiliating than just being comfortable talking about money.

If I had followed the five steps above initially, I would have had more money in my pockets sooner. I would have avoided months of financial stress, resentment, and insecurity.

Many women are raised to believe that we are caretakers and that our satisfaction should be derived from smiles on faces and love in hearts. The work itself should be filling our cups. But that is just not reality. Even stay-at-home moms and housewives get more from their work than love and smiles. The money issue is taken care of, at least. For those who must make money and take care of all the domestic stuff, we are burning out. We need to know what we are worth and get paid. We need to be able to afford to do what we want when we want. We should not feel guilty if we need to get a babysitter on Saturday to get some peace and quiet or whatever else we may want to do. 

Money is not the root of all evil. Money is necessary for all.

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