My friend called me the other day about negotiating her salary. She is being recruited for a new role and wanted some pointers on how to broach the salary conversation. This is a call I get fairly often.

Women (especially those in male dominated industries) are taught to take whatever salary they can get. In a highly criticized conversation at the Grace Hopper Conference in 2014, Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) echoed what so many women have heard throughout the years. “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.” Now, Satya did clean up what he said later on Twitter. Nadela has done pay equity work at MSFT since then too. But the comment was one that was very familiar for women, and wrong. It is not about playing nice and hoping someone taps you on the shoulder to give you more money.
We know from McKinsey’s research that women get promotions at a less frequent rate than men. We know women carry the baggage of making less into new roles which perpetuates the issue. We know the average annual increase hovers around 3% in most industries
But back to my friend. Her concern was like what many women think when approaching a new job. She worried that if she asked for too much money she would “price herself out of the job.” I started by telling her that she didn’t need this job, they needed her. Great place to start the negotiations right? Most companies focused on creating gender balance on their teams. That puts women into a position of power. But even if that wasn’t the case, there are steps you can take to put yourself into a position of power.
Here are a few things I shared with her.
  • Do your research. Start by looking online at Payscale to see what your role pays in your area.
  • Don’t assume you know how much they are willing to pay. Women tend to be conservative in their ask. They don’t want to seem too aggressive or to offend the recruiter/hiring manager.
  • Ask them for the pay range of the role. Recruiters want to make sure they aren’t wasting your time so they may be willing to share the range.
  • If you get push back on what you are asking for, be ready. Have a list of other items you can negotiate. Consider negotiating vacation time or other paid time off, a sign-on bonus, or increased bonus potential as negotiation points.
  • Ask for what you want, not just what you need. Yes, you want to be able to survive, but how much do you need to thrive? What is the right compensation that would make your life better.
And something else to keep in mind. States and other jurisdictions are starting to ban previous salary questions from candidates. Right now, nine states have banned companies from asking compensation history. This is a great step to pay equity for everyone.
Bottom line is that negotiating your salary is the right thing to do for women and for organizations.