During the most recent election cycle, pay equity was a hot topic. It should be. In September 2016, the National Committee on Pay Equity reported that based on 2015 U. S. Census data, women currently make 79.6% of what their male counterparts earn. Women’s median earnings were $40,742 while men’s were $51,212—and this reflects a 1% increase over the prior year. While any improvement is cause for celebration, 1% means it will take quite some time before women earn as much as men. The numbers encompass women at all levels of their careers. In fact, the higher the income women earn, the greater the disparity.
These facts can be depressing. And who wants to wait until retirement for the wage gap to disappear? In the meantime, besides supporting legislation and societal change, women can and should negotiate for the best total compensation package possible.
Step One: Knowledge is Power. Know what you are worth. This improves your bargaining position. It is more difficult for an employer faced with hard facts to decline your request than one presented with a vague statement like, “I don’t think I’m paid fairly.” Although employers guard this information closely and often discourage their employees from sharing wage and salary information, there are other resources. Check with your professional association for salary surveys, look on current job boards for similar job descriptions to see what other companies are paying or use GlassDoor, a tool available through DU that publishes salary information.
Step Two: Advocate for yourself. Once you know what you should earn, demonstrate your value. Itemize the tasks you do, the skills you bring to your work and call out your successes. Keep a file that holds the compliments you’ve received from customers or coworkers. Quantify how you’ve helped your employer’s bottom line: How much did you increase sales? What new projects did you start? List the new customers/clients you manage. Emphasize the things your employer cares about most.
Step Three: Ask for more than you want. If you start with a request for $10,000 more annually, you can bet your boss will assume there is bargaining room. If you want $10,000, ask for $15,000. You can always bargain down; it’s harder to ask for more later.
Step Four: Get creative. Think about this from your employer’s point of view. Even if your department had sharp growth last year, if company profits were stagnant, there may not be much money available. (By the way, still start by asking for dollars.) When your supervisor tells you this, don’t leave the negotiating table. You already demonstrated why you are valuable to the company. Follow up with alternates to increased salary. For example, could you have more paid vacation? Will the company fund an advanced degree or certificate? Can you work remotely part of the time? Would you like a better office? What about a paid parking space? Can you take on different or new assignments you would prefer? Can the company contribute more to your 401(k)?
Step Five: Don’t give up. If you don’t get what you want the first time, tell your boss you would like to revisit the issue in three, six or nine months. In the interim, don’t hesitate to look at other jobs. Having another offer can provide the leverage you need. On the other hand, you may just decide that the grass is greener elsewhere. Be sure to negotiate your job offer, too, so you’re exactly where you want to be from the start.
Don’t accept the status quo – negotiate yourself into a better wage. If these steps don’t work, consider leaving and finding an employer who appreciates you and the value you bring to the company.
If you want to learn more about Pay Equity and steps to improve your position, join the DU Women’s Professional Alliance on April 4 at 6:30pm here on campus. Register here.