Whether you’ve just accepted your first job or you’re looking for that next career move – the hardest part of accepting a new role is the negotiation phase. For most of us, this conversation can be uncomfortable as we feel like the employer has the upper hand, and we have to carefully navigate the conversation to avoid jeopardizing our position with the company. You’re not alone in that feeling! According to CareerBuilder.com, only 55% of people try to negotiate salary while 73% of employers say they would be willing to negotiate on the initial salary. So how can we build the confidence to be in that 55%?
The first step in changing this narrative is knowing the facts and the historical context behind women’s wages in the United States. On average, women working full-time are paid somewhere between 79 and 82 cents to every dollar earned by men, but the statistics are even more staggering for women of color. While the difference might seem small at first, this difference can add up to a loss of $900,000 in a lifetime. This not only affects your monthly income, but can affect your social security or pensions long after retirement. Because of this gap, the National Committee on Pay Equity recognizes a date every year as “Equal Pay Day” this represents how far into the next year women must work in order to earn what men earned in the previous year and generally lands in March or April. There are many contributing factors to why this gap exists such as the motherhood penalty and occupational segregation but even more so the social pressures that are put on women because of implicit bias.
Now that you know there is nearly a million dollars at stake, it’s time to get serious about negotiating your initial or new salary. This process starts before you even apply for the job and continues up until you sign that final offer. Here are some tips for you to follow as you progress through your journey:
Before You Apply
Before you even apply for a job, it is important that you have strong materials and supporting documentation behind your application. You should ask a trusted friend (or sister) to review your materials in advance – be sure to give them a copy of the job description in addition to your resume, cover letter, and any other requested materials. Make sure that your resume focuses on achievements in your past roles, not just on the job description. You should make sure that you’re including transferable skills and mirroring the language seen in the company’s mission statement and job posting.
At the same time you’re preparing your formal materials, you should also be working on your “portfolio.” This is a collection of artifacts that demonstrate the value you bring to the workplace. It could include things like previous evaluations or even just e-mails that former supervisors sent you with praise. You could also collect publications, presentations, articles, and reports that demonstrate your worth – bonus points if you can provide specific data. These materials can help you practice for an interview since you can draw from concrete examples to strengthen your responses.
During the Application Process
When filling out the application, some employers may ask for your previous salary. Consider this to be a red flag that you’re going to need to do extensive research to make sure the salary they offer you is competitive and based on the market value, not your historical value. Additionally, you should keep this in mind if you’re required to list a desired or target salary. If you must list a number and not a phrase like “negotiable,” make sure you do your research.
When you’re determining a target salary it’s important that you do your research and use reputable sites that you can later cite in your negotiation if needed. It’s not enough to just look at the median for your specific job title – you need to look at data for your area and if you can find it, the company you’re applying for. Some resources that you can use are Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LinkedIn, or your local chamber of commerce. This is also a place where you can tap into your professional and AOII networks to ask sisters what a typical salary would be for someone with your experience. Sometimes it might be difficult to find data for your specific job title, so it’s important to look for data on related or similar job titles.
As you’re identifying your target salary, it’s important that you identify three key numbers – your “reach” salary, this might be the highest number you put out there that’s still reasonable, your “walk away” salary, meaning that if they offered you anything less than this you would turn down the job, and your target salary, somewhere in the middle. If the initial offer is above your target salary, it’s okay to do more research before accepting it. Remember, 73% of employers are willing to negotiate a little bit!
During your research, you might find that some employers like state agencies, have non-negotiable salaries and instead offer pay steps. In these situations, it might be more important to look at negotiable benefits such as working remotely, or flexible schedules. Remember, salary isn’t everything when it comes to a new role!
During the Interview Stages
Do your best to avoid talking about salary before an official offer is on the table. AAUW’s Start Smart and Work Smart trainings offer some great tips on how to deflect these types of questions and to bring the focus back to you and what you bring to the team.
After an Offer Has Been Made
Evaluate the offer made – consider your monthly budget and target salary range but don’t forget about those other benefits: paid time off (PTO), retirement offerings, cell phone credit, a company vehicle, on-site child care, healthcare, stock options or a flexible work environment. Now is the time to ask questions – if you don’t understand the stipulations around the stock options – set up an appointment with the recruiter or an HR staff member to get clarification.
Remember, this might be your only chance to negotiate in this role so practice with a mentor or sister. Write out your value statements so you feel confident saying them aloud to your future employer and can provide concrete reasoning and data on why you’re asking for more money or for a specific benefit. The worst that they can say is no! At the end of the day this is a conversation so be respectful and calm and if your employer can treat you with the same demeanor– this might be a telling sign of the work environment you’re about to enter! It’s okay to walk away from a bad deal.
Once You’ve Accepted
It’s time to celebrate! Make sure you thank your references and other friends and mentors that helped you get to this place! Be sure to update your LinkedIn profile and your employment profile in AlphaLink so that sisters can contact you in the future to learn more about your field. Lastly, consider doing something to mark the occasion, maybe that’s a new job party with friends, a fun purchase, or paying off a little extra on those student loans – do something that makes you happy and excited to start this next chapter!
- Participate in AAUW’s free Start Smart or Work Smart workshop depending on where you are in your career. This free workshop has a lot of great tips on every type of scenario and could be a great chapter activity!
- Read AAUW’s The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap to learn more about factors that affect the pay gap.
- Participate in some LinkedIn Learning Courses on salary negotiation.
- Join AAUW and become a Smart Start/Work Smart facilitator and partner with the organization to provide the workshop to others in your region empowering the next generation of women in the workforce.
- Plan an Equal Pay Day event to raise awareness about the pay gap.
- Call your representatives and advocate for legislation that aims to provide equal pay or transparency in salary.
For Alumnae Chapters
- Seek out opportunities to support women in their future careers in organizations like:
- Sign up to be an AOII volunteer! Have the opportunity to mentor collegiate women, participate in the scholarship reading process, or provide beneficial programming based on your areas of expertise!
Lindsey Forbes is an alumna of Delta Nu (U of Nevada, Reno) and a member of the Education Committee.