Salary Negotiation In A Gender-Biased World

Trisha Aguinaldo
Dec 5, 2018 · 7 min read
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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

If you want to negotiate a higher salary or want to ask for a raise but don’t know how to do it, then this article is for you. Women Who Code Boston and Ellevation Education co-hosted a salary negotiation workshop on December 2018. The goal was to teach self-identifying women the skills that they would need to successfully negotiate a higher pay.

In an ideal world, two people who have the same job and skills should be paid the same rate regardless of their gender, ethnic makeup, or any other socially constructed category. For example, if Bob and Sarah do the same job and perform at the same level, then they should be paid the same rate.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality.

According to a report by AAUW, in 2017 women who work full-time got paid just 80% of what men was paid. This is a pay gap of 20% or 80cents to a dollar.

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Why does the gender gap matter?

Well, because women are paid less for the same work. About $840 billion is lost every year because of the gender pay gap (AAUW).That could be money that some women use to pay for their kid’s school lunch. I think about my older sister who is a single, working mom at 21 years old. She is living a double-standard and is expected to both be the caregiver and the breadwinner. That’s pressure in and outside of the house 24/7. As a collective, men don’t have as much pressure.

One of the reasons why the gender pay gap exists is simple: women negotiate less than men. About 55% of women are apprehensive about negotiating compared to 39% of men (Babcock, L. 2007). Only about 30% of women always negotiate while 46% of men (that’s about 50%) always negotiate.

The moral of the story is to just ask.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

What’s stopping me from negotiating my salary?

I’ve been working at the same job for 4 years and I certainly lost a lot of money by not asking my manager for a raise. I’ve got three excuses:

  1. I don’t know how to negotiate my salary.
  2. I’m unsure of how much I am worth and what salary range to propose.
  3. I am afraid of getting fired if I ask for a raise.

If you are going through the same thing, know that all hope is not lost. We’ve identified what my barriers for salary negotiating, now let’s work on breaking it.

Step 1. Know your value

The goal here is to identify and verbalize skills or accomplishments you can bring to the table. Maybe you are a positive team player or you got a compliment from a customer for going the extra mile. When a co-worker or my manager complements me, I make sure to write that complement down. These are your receipts, proof that your efforts are being rewarded. It’s your job to let everyone in the office know that you did an awesome job. That way, they can associate you with that good deed that you just did.

Here are some questions to help you know your value:

  • Think about your accomplishments, contributions, skills, and relevant work experiences.
  • How did you make that happen?

For example: Through my efforts to standardize the treatment scheduling protocol at a major hospital in Boston, I’ve improved the workflow of the weekend clinic, changed the work environment from toxic to positive, and addressed the concerns of all stake holders (nurses, doctors, patient and his/her family). As a result, the hospital benefits by having a lower nurse to patient ratio, lower patient waiting times, and better health care service for the patients.

Please know, that it’s very hard to change the work culture overnight. Before I was hired, nurses dreaded working during the weekend because the way treatment appointments were scheduled was highly unorganized and inefficient. Nurses cannot be at two places at once. If you pack their schedule by scheduling patients treatment all at the same time, then it gets harder for them to safely handle their patient’s treatments.

I was hired to fix problems like this. I listened to what didn’t work. I made sure that everyone was on the same page and then I wrote a scheduling protocol that worked for the group. As a result, not only did operations vastly improve, but I’ve normalized the workflow and eliminated most of the anxieties that nurses, patients, and doctors had during the weekend clinic. I really, really am proud that I’ve changed the attitudes of nurses about working in the weekend clinic.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to boast about your accomplishments. Remember no one knows you better than you. So be your own brand ambassador.

Also, boast about yourself often. How would people know the amazing things that you are doing if you don’t tell them?

Step 2. Know Your Target Salary and Benefits

If you know what kind of job title you want to have, search it up on For example, my target title is Software Engineer I (entry-level). You can filter the results by your educational level, related experience, and other relevant fields.

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Based on my skills and experience, my projected salary range is $71,823 — $77, 241. Now that you have your target salary range, make sure you define your target salary (a number that you are happy to walk away with), and a resistance point (a salary number that you are not willing to compromise, this could be based on covering your basic necessities)

Step 3: Know Your Strategy

There’s a right time to start negotiating your salary: when you have received a job offer. Don’t start negotiating at the first interview. Better yet, ask your recruiter if it’s possible to negotiate salary.

In Massachusetts, it’s illegal for an employer to ask you for your previous pay. But, if an employer asks you to share your salary expectations, you can still use deflection strategies per below:

  • “I’d rather talk about my expected salary after I’ve received the job offer”
  • “I’d like to see if I’m a good fit first before we discuss salary.”
  • “What is the salary range that you offer for this position?”
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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Let’s say you got the job offer. What do you do?

If you get offered a higher rate than what you had hoped for, then nice. Say thank you and then try to negotiate benefits. Maybe you can work remotely or add on more vacation times. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Hiring managers usually offer you a salary with some buffer. That is, they expect you to negotiate a higher pay. A good rule of thumb is if you are qualified, try to negotiate 10–20% of what was offered.

If you got a lower pay rate than you expected, then start assessing your benefits. Realistically, can they give you more vacation time? Or if they have a hard cap on the salary, could they give you a sign-in bonus and then re-assess the salary after 6–12 months of meeting your work goals?

Make sure that when you are negotiating, you have your notes and are backing up your negotiation with market value facts from or some other search engine. Be open minded and what the hell, just ask away. It’s better to ask if a higher salary or better benefits is possible rather than letting an opportunity go. Your friend Bob would not hesitate to negotiate a higher pay, so neither should you.

Asking for a raise

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Please don’t just barge in your supervisor’s office and start declaring you need a raise. Test the waters first by saying something like:

“I’d like to talk to you about increasing my role and responsibilities within the team and how that is reflected in my salary. Based on my research, the market rate for a software engineer with my level of expertise and skills is $ per year. I’d like to be considered for a raise that will bring me into this range.”

In your pitch, remember your audience, the language you are using, and to ground your negotiation in facts. (Facts can be an awesome feedback you got from your co-worker or your current market value).

Anyway, the event tonight was super helpful. I hope you found my summary helpful too!

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Salary Negotiation Workshop | Taken from wwcboston on Twitter 12/4/18

Disclaimer: I am simplifying the gender gap issue in this article by using “men” and “women” as absolute comparisons. But please note that gender identity is not exclusively masculine and feminine. Also, note that other factors like race, educational level, geography, and so forth play a role in salary negotiations.

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