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Closing the Gender Pay Gap: The Million-Dollar Question

Topics: Career Advice
salary gap
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In corporate America, women on average earn 76 cents to every dollar a man earns. Why does this salary gap still exist in 2016?

One major reason is because women are less likely to negotiate their salary early in their careers and thus will continue to lose ground with every successive opportunity. Why don’t women ask for a raise? It’s not due to a lack of confidence, but rather concern about how they will be perceived during and after the negotiation. Many times, there is a social cost to negotiating, which can negatively impact ongoing relationships or your standing within the organization.

Thirty-one percent of women say they feel uncomfortable negotiating their salary, compared to 23 percent of men. However, it’s imperative that we advocate for ourselves. We often think that if we keep our head down and do good work, that our employers will reward us fairly and on par with others. Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works, so having an effective strategy for approaching the conversations is key.

Why Women Must Ask

We have to know our worth and make the ask. The consequences go beyond leaving a few dollars on the table.  Avoiding these “small asks” can really add up. Over a 45-year career, accepting what’s offered versus getting what you deserve can total over a million dollars left on the table.

It’s often difficult to close the salary gap once you have fallen behind. Moreover, you have to be able to ask not only for salary but also for additional opportunities or promotions. If you don’t ask, you’re less likely to get the raise now, which could impact future raises and opportunities. Simply put: women run the risk of NEVER catching up. Don’t be discouraged! Women (and men) are not born negotiators — it’s an acquired skill.

Tips for Negotiating the Raise You Deserve

  1. Set a meeting. Make the ask. Tell your boss that you would like to discuss your pay and be mindful of the timing. Does your company have specific times of the year for handing out pay raises, and for reviewing department budgets? Make sure you know, and ask at an optimal time.
  1. Be persistent even if it gets uncomfortable. Discussions about money can sometimes be tricky, but stand your ground. Keep the discussion professional, and state your goals. Bear in mind that you are not asking for any favors here. A raise should be about being rewarded for your talent and contributions.
  1. Preparation is key! Go into your salary negotiation prepared with a well-organized list of your accomplishments and their relevance to the business. You should be keeping track of your weekly accomplishments, both the contributions and challenges (especially how you may have overcome them). Quantifying what you’ve accomplished at work is an excellent tool to leverage when it’s time for that promotion discussion. It’s also important to have industry benchmarks for your position and any internal data for similar roles.
  1. Don’t take the first offer. Too often, women make the mistake of accepting the first offer they get. It’s important to negotiate and have a discussion about your salary with your employer before you finalize the number. Beyond the fact that you’re not advocating for yourself, the lack of negotiating on your behalf may lead to questions about your ability to manage, especially as you move up in your organization.

Women can close the salary gap, but it will require us to get a bit more uncomfortable. We must know our own worth and contributions, do our homework, focus on our results, make the ask confidently, and continue to build the case for our future. We must be our own best advocate!

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the best negotiating advice you’ve ever received? We want to hear from you! Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Lisa Skeete Tatum
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Cindy Loka
Cindy Loka

Excuse me! If I want really to get a job in the company that I would like to work, I want to accept any offer, even it it less than my expectation! I’m still looking for job for a year now, and I went through phone interviews with recruiters only! NO JOB INTERVIEW YET!!! instead of giving stupid advices, please help realistically/financially!

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