Calling all women: Earn your worth & help close the pay gap!

It’s well documented that there is a pay gap between men and women in the US.  One of the best ways for women to decrease that gap is to consistently negotiate a higher starting salary with each job offer, starting with the first.  This is important because a lower starting salary early in your career can have compounding effects over time, especially when employers base a job offer on your last salary, rather than the market rate for your qualifications.  According to Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask, by the age of 60 women could be short up to 2 million dollars for lack of negotiating over the course of their career.

The truth is that most women don’t try to negotiate compensation.  According to a 2011 survey of 2000 people, 84% of employers expect candidates to negotiate a job offer.  However, most candidates don’t.  The findings revealed that while 46% of men always try to negotiate, only 30% of women do the same.  Furthermore, less than half of the men surveyed (39%) were apprehensive about negotiating, while more than half of the women (55%) were apprehensive about it.

One of the best ways to lessen anxiety and improve performance is to be prepared. So, let’s discuss two important ways you can prepare for your next salary negotiation.

FIRST:  Identify your leverage

Leverage is a critical piece of any negotiation, especially when handling salary.  You must know what leverage you have and when to use it.  Many employers (and some candidates) want to talk about salary early on in the interviewing process but this is not in the candidate’s best interest.  You must hold off this discussion until you have the most leverage and that is when the employer has made you the job offer.  Before that point, you have very minimal leverage, so don’t be the first to bring it up.  If the employer brings it up too early, try to postpone the discussion until later.  This post give advice on delaying that initial conversation.

To assess your leverage, try to find out answers to these questions:

How long has the position been vacant? (the longer it’s been open, the more leverage you have)

How hard is it to fill this type of position? (the more difficult to fill, the more leverage you have)

Do you possess unique qualifications that make it hard to find candidates?  (the more unique your skills, the more leverage you have)

Is this position critical to operations? (the more critical the position, the more leverage you have)

How fast do they need to fill the job? (the faster they have to hire, the more leverage you have)

How well do they know you and your abilities? (the better they know you and your abilities, the more leverage you have)


SECOND: Determine the market rate

Another point of information that is extremely important for your salary negotiation is the market rate. You need to research the answer to this question:  What do others with similar experience and education get paid in your geographic location?  There are many sources of data points to discover.

  • Industry leaders and professional associations conduct periodic and annual salary surveys. Some access may be limited by membership status and some may charge a fee.  For those that are expensive, see if your local library carries them.
  • For a nonprofit in the US, you can look up the 990 form or public tax return to see the salaries for the top five positions in the organization. This may not reveal the pay for your role but knowing the top five salaries should give some insight into their pay ranges.
  • Don’t forget to ask colleagues you know and trust. You must do this tactfully and carefully, but it’s a great source of information.
  • Job postings are not so useful for actually landing a job, but they can be very useful for gathering salary information. Whenever you see this data for your profession, make a note of it.
  • Online you can find many salary websites, such as:  (a great website with tons of information and global salary data). (mainly US and Canada data offering free and paid reports) (this is a newer feature, so the data set is limited) (this Department of Labor website offers national salary data and by state)


More tips to help you prepare:

  • Know what you want. Determine your ideal salary along with what you can accept while still making your financial commitments.  This will give you a range to keep in mind as you negotiate.
  • Create scripts and practice them. Predict push back and objections and know your reply ahead of time.  Have a few answers ready if the employer asks you to state a number first.  Deflect as much as possible and if they press hard, give a broad range.
  • Find ways to respond to their questions without sharing your past salary information. You can say something like “That’s personal information that I don’t share” and then ask a question related to the job to change the subject.
  • There are many others items you could navigate if annual salary is not negotiable. Consider discussing benefits such as health insurance costs, vacation time or professional development opportunities.  In addition, consider asking for a sign on bonus, for a different title, a different start date or the option to work remotely.
  • Keep timing in mind. Don’t forget that you have the most leverage when they offer you the job.

It is my hope that by reading this article, you will try to negotiate your next job offer.  Even if you haven’t been doing it so far in your career, it’s not too late to start now.  The more you try it, the more comfortable you will feel doing it (although it will almost always be something you’d rather not do) and that will make you more likely to try!



2 Responses

  1. Lynn Carroll
    | Reply

    It’s one of the most important ways women, people of color, and people with disabilities can help each other close the gap.

  2. paula
    | Reply

    Thanks for your comment Lynn.

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