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5 Ways Women Can Negotiate for Higher Pay

A former HR pro offers advice on knowing your value and getting the salary you deserve

By Kelli Thompson

Editor’s note: August 26 is Women's Equality Day, designated in 1972 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to give equal economic opportunities to women.

A woman negotiating her pay over a video call with her boss. Next Avenue, equal wages, pay gap women
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For nearly eight years, I worked as a hiring manager and HR professional for financial services and technology organizations. My experience confirms what a lot of emerging data on the pay gap reveals — women are often more hesitant to apply for well-paying jobs, and negotiate less often, than men.

I can assure you that most companies are prepared to increase an offer if they really want a candidate.

As employment rates rise, it's more important than ever for women to know their worth and negotiate their pay. For women over 50 and nearing retirement, negotiating a higher salary can also help close the retirement savings gap with men. For starters, you will be earning more money that can be saved and a higher salary means your company may be contributing more towards your 401(k) plan.

When it comes to entering a salary negotiation, I understand the temptation to take the first offer you receive, especially if you've been recently unemployed. However, I can assure you that most companies are prepared to increase an offer if they really want a candidate. Not only are they prepared to offer more, they expect you to negotiate for more.

Hiring managers are not surprised or offended or think you are greedy when you negotiate. Men, generally speaking, have done this for decades.

According to one study of new graduates from Carnegie Mellon University, 57% of the men negotiated their salary compared to only 7% of women. Consequently, the men had starting salaries 7.6% higher than the women. Research shows that men initiate salary conversations four times more often than women, and when women do negotiate, they ask for 30% less than their male counterparts, on average.

Here are five tips for women to enter salary negotiations and come out ahead:

1. Start negotiating the small stuff in your life. Practicing this can prepare you for entering a formal salary negotiation. For example, try to renegotiate your cable bill. University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant writes in his bestseller "Give and Take" that small wins give us the confidence to take action on the big stuff.

2. Change your money mindset. This is all about believing in your worth. When we truly believe we are worth more and express this, others will perceive it as well.

How can you know your worth when you make the salary ask? Keep a record of your career accomplishments, including details like revenue earned or expenses saved, glowing feedback and projects accomplished. You'll not only boost your confidence when you look at your track record, you can use this information to provide clear examples of your value in your job interview and salary negotiations.

3. Do your research. Being prepared is your greatest weapon to increase your pay. Familiarize yourself with industry salary trends and speak to them when negotiating with your employer.

It's helpful to look at salary-data resources on sites like LinkedIn, PayScale and Glassdoor. This will give you a clearer idea of how much you can negotiate for. Then, take this information and come up with a rate that is fair and appropriate.

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4. Prepare to negotiate employee benefits. A salary is not the only thing worth discussing before accepting a job offer. I recommend doing a holistic assessment of the whole package, looking at such things as paid time off, health insurance and flexible hours. Consider what's important to you and your lifestyle before entering a salary negotiation and push for what you want.

5. Practice your script. Preparing what you will say during a negotiation will boost your confidence and ensure that you have a convincing case for a higher salary. When you write this script, focus on the value you will bring to the company.

There is no guarantee that you will get the salary you are asking for.

For example, you might say something like "In my last role, I helped my organization make an extra $50,000 through fundraising." Before entering the negotiation, practice this script with a trusted friend or family member.

There is no guarantee that you will get the salary you are asking for. If a hiring manager responds badly, consider this valuable insight into how the organization may have treated your requests as an employee (badly). Then, take into account what you heard at your next salary negotiation.

So, go in there and advocate for what you're worth. Good luck!

Kelli Thompson
Kelli Thompson is a leadership coach and speaker who helps women leaders advance with clarity and confidence. She spent 15 years in corporate America before launching her coaching practice. Read More
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