It was my third editorial job out of graduate school. After one year working at the weekly magazine, I asked my female boss for a raise.
“My rent has gone up and I need to make more money.”
She smiled and responded, “I don’t care about your rent. Never ask for a raise based on your needs. I will give you a raise because you work hard and have done a good job. Ask for a raise based on your value to the company.”
It was a lesson I never forgot and one I used in every salary negotiation since. And we remain very good friends, now 35 years later.
It turns out, the mistake I made is very common for women in the workplace.
Reva Seth writes in Fast Company. “’Too often, women equate our compensation in practical terms: ‘what I need’ versus ‘what I deserve,’ says Kirstine Stewart, Twitter’s VP of media, North America and best-selling author of Our Turn.”
Seth quotes Stewart: “’I’ve had women come to me looking for a raise, but they use the justification of expenses, when the approach should be, ‘This is what I contribute to the business, and this is my worth to the business,’ Stewart says ‘The more comfortable we are expressing our value, I think the better we can achieve our true worth.’”
As women in the workplace, if we are going to narrow and eliminate the gender pay gap by 2025 as is the mission for Take The Lead, we are likely going to have to ask for it. Here are some key strategies for not only negotiating your salary, but asking for salary adjustments along the way.If women are going to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2025, we are going to have to ask for it. Click To Tweet
Ignorance is not bliss.
Do your homework. Find out the base salary and range of salaries for your position and job description throughout the country, Comparably is an excellent resource for that.
Seek out organizations for networking in your field and see if there is data available for average and median salaries for your level of expertise and years of service. Ask questions, seek mentoring advice.
Be open and transparent.
“Simply sharing information (including the anecdotal kind) is the first step to addressing the gender pay gap in all its complexity—especially since we know this type of knowledge can still be hard to casually obtain,” writes Reva Seth in Fast Company.
She continues, “One study found that while 61 percent of women wanted greater transparency on employee salaries, only 38 percent of men agreed that was necessary.”
As women in the workplace, talking about what you earn with your male and female colleagues may be about as comfortable as talking about your deepest secrets, but this may be the quickest way to assess where you stand. And it works both ways. You can find out the woman down the hall hired at the same time you were, makes 20 percent more, or you could discover your good friend who works incredibly hard, is earning 40 percent less.
Still, the money talk makes us squirm.
“A 2015 Fidelity Investments Money Study found an overwhelming majority of women (80 percent of those surveyed) refrain from discussing their finances with family and close friends. The researchers found that this reluctance translates to fewer conversations about investments and longer-term financial planning—all to the wealth detriment of women,” Seth writes.
Earn the increase.
Long before you make the appointment ahead of your one year anniversary and review, make sure you are working as hard as you can to earn the confidence of your bosses and managers. Document every email of praise and recognition, and if possible, document the impact you have made. Did your project earn followers, lead to a sale?
It is not likely you will get a raise just because of the passage of time. The number os sunrises and sunsets does not translate into an increase in your paycheck.
As Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruer Finn, writes in Fortune, entitlement is not on the table. “Recently, there has been more attention focused on giving women a chance, and more pressure to open up opportunities in a gender-neutral way. Some women even feel that they deserve more than male colleagues, given the gender imbalance that has dominated senior ranks of industry. But really, women—and men—have to prove themselves worthy of the job. You must have the best expertise, right management, team-building skills, and vision for the job. There is no fast ticket to great possibilities—you have to earn it.”
Own your worth as part of your story.
You may well have top allies and advocates for you and your work in your organization, but know that you are your own best salesperson. Recommendations and references are great, but you can tell the story of your value to the organization best.
Telling your story is Power Tool # 9 in Take The Lead co-founder and president Gloria Feldt’s “9 Leadership Power Tools To Advance Your Career.”
In a recent column in Personnel Today, Rachel Short, Director of Why Women Work, is quoted as saying: “Despite the longstanding myths about women at work, they are taking more control over their own careers, making proactive moves from one role to another or from one employer to another. There are two areas where women are still more reticent (or less ruthless) than their male peers in their career-building. They seem to be less visible or less demanding when accessing leadership development experience and can hold back from difficult conversations with their other half when it comes to sharing time out of the workplace for childcare.”
Both of those may stop a woman from asking for a raise. But both of those difficult conversations are a part of her story. Still, asking for a raise is unavoidable, unless you agree to stay stuck.Asking for a raise is unavoidable, unless you agree to stay stuck. Click To Tweet
But what are the incentives for employers to give women raises? Not only does it make for happier employees, companies do not want to be seen as operating in the Dark Ages abour gender parity.
Some of the largest banks in the U.S. and the U.K. are incentivizing the promotion of women leaders within the ranks, by withholding the bonuses of senior management unless more women rise from within, according to Ivana Kottasova writing in CNN Money.
“The firms agreed to set internal targets for gender diversity in their senior management, publish progress reports every year, and appoint a senior executive responsible for gender diversity and inclusion,” she writes.
Kottasova continues: “’A growing number of chief executives and boards within the sector are taking the issue seriously and recognize the strong link between greater gender balance and improved productivity and performance,’ said Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive of Virgin Money.”
She adds, “British companies are already being required to come clean about how much they pay their male and female employees. Starting 2018, they will have to publish detailed information about gaps in salaries and bonuses. The plan is part of the government’s strategy to put an end to gender pay discrimination.”
In the new film, “Equity,” released last week, creators Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner succeeded in putting on the large screen insight into the lives of big female players on Wall Street. “It’s arguably the first movie since Working Girl (1988) to feature a woman on the rise in the notoriously male arena of finance,” writes Lizzie Crocker in The Daily Beast.
The film’s lead character, Naomi Bishop, says in the film: “I am so glad that it’s finally acceptable for women to sit and talk about ambition openly. But don’t let money be a dirty word. We can like that, too.”
The plot deals with promotions, leaning in, balance, networking and all that. Oh, and it’s of course, you guessed it, a thriller.