” No Wonder women don’t negotiate as often as men. It’s like trying to cross a minefield backward in high heels.”


Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will To Lead”

The gender gap remains in the usual places for women–less pay, work fewer years in the workplace with time out for children and other dependents, lower savings for retirement–but women are gaining ground.

More women are graduating college and hold more graduate degrees than men. They are  reaching higher corporate levels and there are more women-owned or founded businesses. Women are primary breadwinners in 40% of US households according to a 2017 Chase study in partnership with Refinery29. Of these women, 37% outearn their partners and 63% are single moms.

Women Need To Be Assertive But Find It Hard To Negotiate

When it comes to women achieving success in their careers, moving from entry levels to ever-higher corporate levels, they need to understand how to better negotiate compensation packages. Women tend to be less assertive and more accommodative than men. That may leave significant money on the table, starting with their first job’s salary.

When women get a lower salary than men for the same job and experience, that difference should not be dismissed as for just one year. It becomes cumulative. She starts with a lower base. Even if she and her male counterpart get the identical raises and promotions over the same years worked, the impact of compounding interest leaves a sizable gap in her comparable net worth.

Women Pay A Greater Social Cost

Studies have pointed to the “social cost of negotiating” which results in negative impacts on those who are self-advocating for a salary raise. It was found however that the impact was significantly worse for women than men.

“Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.”    Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will To Lead

Research shows women make better advocates when they represent others than for themselves. Women fear backlash when it is for themselves but are viewed better when they negotiate for others.

10 Steps Women Should Take When Negotiating


1. When You Are Limited To What Is Offered

Before you go gangbusters, know that certain jobs may not be negotiable. Entry level jobs may be less negotiable especially when  you have little to no experience in the field.

Typically, teaching, union, hourly positions, government and civil jobs are based on stated pay scales. Some companies have moved to more transparent structured compensation schemes.

2. Do Your Research First

Be aware of what the typical salary ranges are for jobs you are seeking in your field and your geographic area. It may be difficult for you to try to negotiate when its your first job however you can inquire what the high and low salaries reflect.

Glassdoor, Payscale and Salary.com are good places to start to find average salaries. This may provide you information for your first job offer and be a source as your role expands at the firm. This can provide you with relevant documentation when you seek a raise.

Speak to people who you know are working in jobs that you are interested in. Ask about the drivers of success and challenges, and companies that may have opportunities. Linkedin is a great professional networking website source to use. Job boards and, when you begin the interviewing process, human resources representatives can be helpful.

You should learn what the industry norms are for your field and how it relates to your education and experience.

Always be prepared to reflect on successes thus far, especially when asking for raises and promotions.

3. Build your Negotiation Skills

It is not unusual to be uncomfortable to ask for higher pay, bonuses, benefits, or promotions. Take a class to develop your negotiating skills,  or find a good negotiation coach.

I strongly recommend articles and  YouTubes by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Margaret Neale. Her videos are directed at strengthening skills for women. She is a negotiation expert and author of “Getting (More of) What You Want.”

Lifelong Skills

These skills are core in many aspects of your career and in life overall. They will help build your confidence the right way, prepare thoroughly on the key issues, and listening to the other side’s perspective.

Don’t be afraid to practice by doing a video of yourself. Listen to your voice and tone, watch your demeanor, and body language. Ask someone to critique you. Stay positive, sit straight and sound confident.

Practice for real by calling your cable company and ask for a reduced bill, negotiate your interest rate on your credit card, ask for a reduced price for a used or new car for example. Make sure you are armed with information

4. Getting A  Job

If you have completed the interview process for a job you desire, show your enthusiasm but don’t discuss salary. Wait until after the position has firmly been offered to discuss salary. Don’t be the first to provide a definitive dollar amount or a range you are looking for.  By doing your research ahead of time (see below) you should have some idea of what the range is.

If offered a job but not yet the salary terms, ask for the range. Don’t accept on the spot. Be thoughtful, understand the package, and be ready to negotiate. Your goal is to exceed the high end of the range because you are their best candidate.

A  recent Glassdoor survey found that women negotiated less than men, accepting the salary offer 68% as compared to 52% for men.

5. Take Time To Mull Offer And Show You Are Serious

If you are unsure of the offer, ask for time to contemplate it. Even if you are silently filled with joy, ask the hiring manager for time. They will appreciate your seriousness. If you do want to accept offer, give it orally and follow up immediately in writing. Ask for a letter confirming your acceptance and agreed-upon salary, your title, incentives, and benefits

If there is a gap between the figure you had in mind and their offer, you may want open to the door to negotiate. You can say you are excited about the offer and the organization. Ask if there is any leeway in the compensation. You want to be truly motivated, particularly if you are confident in your skills and experience.

Consider Trade-Offs

If the salary gap is too large, it may be too hard to overcome unless other parts of the package, like a bonus or stock options can bridge the salary difference. See below for a discussion on your compensation package. This will have to be negotiated between you and the employer. Make sure that this is possible ahead of time by speaking to HR.

Some companies have extra money set aside with expectations that prospective employees may ask for better compensation packages but a lower percentage of women negotiate than men.

By the way, if you are asked about salary history, change the topic to the position. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to ask for that confidential information on an interview since 2016.

Related Post: Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face And Overcome

6. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments

As you move up the corporate ladder, keep a personal journal of what you have done, not hours worked. You need to build your list of selling points with real achievements like successful presentations,  landing a lucrative contract, strong customer sales or satisfaction, or training new employees. It will strengthen your conversations when you pitch for more money and benefits.

Women often undervalue their own worth and as a result, have lower expectations for themselves. Confidence-building is just as important as your hard work, diligence, and skills. It took time for me to strengthen my self-assurance to take stands when necessary and to be able to convince others.

7. Solicit Manager Support

It is always a good idea to have management in your corner who can provide you support and feedback. They can provide you with advice on how to advance in your career or get desirable assignments. Take the initiative to talk to your managers about how things are going. Look for mentors. Ask your supervisor for suggestions on professional development or online course opportunities.

Ask your boss for constructive criticism over coffee or lunch. Be professional, loyal and supportive.

I was fortunate to have had good support from my research director. He was often a good sounding board, providing advice and valuable feedback in a complex environment, particularly for women. He treated people professionally and equally.

8. Getting A Raise

You always want to be paid what you are worth whether you are changing jobs or moving up the ladder. If you remain in your organization, you have a record of accomplishments, your ability to work with or manage others and a reputation. You can use internal and external sources to find out what people are making in the field.

When I was an equity analyst at a major investment bank, I was happy with my package and not looking to leave. I ignored recruiter calls. That was a mistake. When I finally decided to talk to a recruiter, I found out I that I had been underpaid (despite making big bucks!) relative to my male counterparts.

It is always good to listen to what you may be worth externally. Of course, there are “switching costs,” that is adjusting to different firm, management, and colleagues, having to maintain or rebuild your reputation for a new audience, different demands and culture.

9. Know Your Worth

Often, talking to outsiders validate that you are in the right place. Nevertheless, use the information like higher salaries or compensation packages to get what you want and need. Arrange to meet with your boss and speak honestly. Provide your accomplishments, share your continued enthusiasm to work with the firm, and specifically her/him and team.

Ask for the money you believe you deserve. If you cannot get to the exact dollar, consider your package and what upgrades you may want. As you move up in your firm to more senior positions, and there are specific times to discuss your annual package, is not unusual to have an attorney with employment law expertise to assist you in negotiations.

Related Post: Ten Ways For Women To Achieve Their Financial Independence

10. Compensation, Incentives And Benefits

Your salary is not the only part of compensation package to consider.  Other incentives, benefits and perks can be a big part of your compensation package. Some companies have been quite progressive and innovative. Investigate what these companies offer.

Important features of a compensation package are:

Incentives such as bonuses and equity options. You want to know if there is a signing bonus, annual bonuses, and how do you may earn equity options. Sometimes your title and position will dictate increased access to sweeteners to your compensation package.

Learn about the company benefits such as Insurance (health, medical, disability, life, dental and vision); 401K retirement plans and if there is a employer-matching program, vacation time, graduate school tuition reimbursement, and other benefits.

Increasingly, other benefits and perks may provided by companies or you can negotiate for to be in your package:

professional development opportunities;

commuter offerings like access to a car on weekdays;

Gym pass or discounts;

Severage packages in the event your company is taken over and/or your job eliminated;

Extra vacation to match the 4-5 weeks you had at your previous employer; and

Work-life balance offerings like working from home, flexible hours, child care cost reimbursements, extended parental leave.

Perks for certain levels of attaining certain corporate levels

Related Post: A Guide For College Grads On Your Company Benefits Plan

As women progress in their careers, compensation packages may become more complex.  Attorneys may do your bidding for you in negotiations, however, you need to understand what you deserve. Women in general are not getting what they are worth. There are positive changes happening for women in the workplace and elsewhere.

How has your experience been in getting a new job, a salary raise, and better benefits? Please share your comments. We are happy to hear from you!











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