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What Women Need to Know: Four Key Salary Negotiation Tips

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By Kim Shepherd, Chairwoman
With Tom Brennan, Manager of Creative Services


No one looks forward to salary negotiations, but they can be even more problematic for women than for men. Studies show not only that women are less likely than men to ask for a raise or higher starting salary (the “ask gap”), but also that, when they do, women are less likely than men to get what they want. If you are planning to negotiate for a better salary, the best advice is to do your homework. It can help you be more effective and bolster your self-confidence. Here are four key tips to help you set yourself up for success.

Know your worth

Women can be encouraged, consciously or unconsciously, to be modest and to underestimate their value. Salary negotiations are not the time to be demure. Come up with a realistic evaluation of your worth — it might be an eye-opener. The best place to start is with market data. You can find salary ranges for similar roles at similar sized companies on sites such as, and Market data from reliable sources will support your request.

Typically these reports provide ballpark ranges, so you will need to factor in things like education level, location and additional training. In effect you’re developing a sales pitch, so think in terms of what differentiates you and makes you uniquely valuable. Actual accomplishments in your current role can be very compelling: maybe you’ve helped cut costs or improve efficiency, or you mentor others.

Know your motivation

Being clear on what is behind this move will help you focus your energies and efforts. Is it because you’ve been at the same salary for three years and believe it is time? Is it because you have additional expenses? Armed with this knowledge, you can define your best possible outcome and minimally acceptable outcome.

Most salary negotiations aren’t do-or-die situations, and you don’t have to go into it ready to resign. But you should be clear on what you’ll do if you don’t get that minimal expectation.

Know when to be silent

Believe me, I am the last person to advocate that women should be seen and not heard! But silence can be strategic. With the right timing, your silence can put the onus on the other person. State your request and wait for a response. Be patient, as the other person may need a moment to think. Many are uncomfortable with silence, but avoid the temptation to start embellishing on your point — it may expose weakness and anxiety. Let the other person respond to your silence.

Know how to overcome objections

Borrowing a little more from sales, anticipate objections so you can be ready to push back. You may expect to hear that your raise won’t fit into the budget. If you can, counter by explaining how you’ve created company savings that offset the raise.

Internal equity is a common objection, and it’s a valid consideration. But if your research indicates that your current salary is low in the market, it’s likely that compensation is low across the company. In a highly competitive talent market, companies that pay less than market rate are at high risk of becoming picking grounds for competitors.

I’ll leave you with a bit of encouraging information. Multiple studies indicate that 70% to 75% of those who ask for a raise get one. Maybe not the full bump, but at least an increase. Give it a shot, and give your best shot by doing the research and being prepared.

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