The gender pay gap has been in the news again lately, as a recent groundbreaking study has disproved conventional wisdom that women don’t ask for raises as frequently as men. For years, research has shown that women don’t ask for raises as often as men, and are less likely to negotiate salaries when starting a new job. However, according to a new study of 4,600 workers in Australia, women ask for pay increases just as often as men, but are less likely to receive them.
This research is disheartening for women because even small differences in pay increase or starting salary add up over a lifetime. In fact, seemingly small discrepancies at the beginning of a career can cost a woman over a million dollars in lifetime earnings.
Asking for a raise or negotiating a starting salary can be especially difficult for a woman, but it’s a critical skill to learn. Here is a guide to help you get paid what you are worth.
Do you deserve a raise?
Research shows that one of the reasons women don’t ask for raises is because they aren’t sure they deserve it. Going through these steps proves to yourself, first and foremost, that you deserve a raise, and gives you the confidence and data that you need to advocate for yourself in the workplace. Remember that pay increases are generally necessary for the following reasons:
Perform research and determine whether your current salary is equitable.
- Compare your salary with that of other people who have your job title in your company, and in your industry. Are you making a comparable salary to others with your title?
- Compare your salary with that of other people with your responsibilities and job description. Oftentimes, our title doesn’t encompass everything we do. So check your actual duties against the salaries of other people in your company, your industry, and your area.
- Check job listings and see what the starting rate is for other people with your current job description, title, and experience. If you find that you would make more money as a new hire in a different company, you probably deserve a raise.
Even if your pay is equitable, you may deserve a raise due to your strong performance.
- Are you doing more work or higher quality work than others in your company?
- Have your responsibilities increased substantially since the last time you got a pay increase?
- Have you been given strong positive feedback from supervisors, co-workers, customers, or subordinates?
Make a list of reasons why you deserve a raise. For example, you deserve a raise because:
- You are earning an entry-level salary, although you have accrued valuable experience.
- People doing comparable work at this company or others are making more money.
- You’ve added x, y, z job duties since your last pay increase.
- You successfully completed x, y, z big projects or initiatives since your last pay increase.
- You contributed to process improvements that save the company x dollars without getting a raise.
The stronger an argument you make for yourself, the more confident you will be when you ask. And, therefore, the more persuasive an argument you can present to your boss or supervisor.
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When do you ask for a raise?
The best time to negotiate a salary is, of course, before you accept a job, to begin with. But, assuming you have already accepted the position and are now preparing to ask for a raise, the question is when.
During a formal performance review
Most companies conduct regular performance reviews, and it’s natural to expect that, if you get positive feedback during your review, you will receive a pay increase. However, it’s important to not be passive. As with the initial salary negotiation, do not simply wait for your boss to name a number. Go into the performance review with a number in mind, and be prepared to argue for it. Remember that this is the time of year when companies have budgeted for pay increases. So it’s easier to get one during this time.
Outside of a review period
Sometimes you need to ask for a raise outside of a normal, formal performance review period. Typically, this conversation comes from a change in the workplace or in your duties. If your role or responsibilities have dramatically expanded, but nobody has offered you a raise in return, it’s time to meet with your boss. You may also have this conversation a few months into a new job if the actual work is different or more difficult than what was described during the hiring process when you initially accepted the salary offer.
In either instance, do not simply prepare to ask for or receive “a raise.” Do some research and determine ahead of time what salary you want so that you aren’t passively accepting what is offered to you. If your boss offers you a 3% raise, explain that you want 10%, and why. These are negotiating opportunities; set a target that is a little higher than what you think you’ll actually get. Then advocate strongly for it.
How do you lead the conversation?
Outside of a review period, remember that your direct supervisor may not be the decision-maker. And they may not be able to award you a raise. However, with the right data and compelling arguments, they can be an advocate for you. And, in turn, they can go to HR or to their supervisor and explain why you need a raise. Remember that fact-based arguments tend to work better for this purpose than emotional appeals.
Begin by scheduling a private meeting and asking for feedback
During a formal review, the performance feedback is built into the conversation. If you are asking for a raise outside of that time, start by asking for feedback. For example, “I just finished the big project, and I was wondering if you had any feedback for me on how it went.” Or “I’ve just learned how to do x and was hoping for some notes from you.”
- Hopefully, your boss will respond with positive feedback. If they do, it’s an ideal lead-in to your request for a raise. As in: “Since everything is going so well and it looks like this will be part of my job duties going forward, I think it’s reasonable for me to have a commensurate pay increase.”
- If you get negative feedback on request, it’s probably not the best time to ask for a raise. Work on addressing the feedback, and then try again.
All too often, commentary on how women don’t ask for raises takes the tone of blaming women for pay inequality. Women are not to blame for the gender pay gap, as the study in Australia just proved. However, it’s still important to grow your skills in being your own best advocate, and fighting for yourself. Thinking about changing careers? Here’s a list work at home jobs that don’t require any money to get started.