It’s tough out here in the world of working women. You’ve heard the statistics from Pew Research: Women make significantly less than men for the same work, with white women making an average of 82 cents to a man’s dollar. Black women make an average of 65 cents, and Hispanic women just 58 cents. Pay discrepancy can cost a woman half a million dollars over a lifetime. And yet women are often seen as aggressive and unlikeable when they ask for raises or try to negotiate higher salaries.
So what’s a girl to do? Should they negotiate their salaries at every opportunity to try to make up for the pay gap?
According to a 2017 study by CareerBuilder, more than half of companies expect you to negotiate your offer, and 52 percent of those polled said they offer candidates less in anticipation that they will ask for more — sometimes $5,000 or more is left on the table.
So should you ask for more? Probably. One notable exception according to Ladan Nikravan Hayes, career advisor at CareerBuilder, is if you’re already being paid at expected rates. “If you’ve done your research and you know that the salary you’re receiving is in line with your position, your experience and the city you’re working in, don’t negotiate just for the sake of negotiating,” Hayes tells SheKnows.
Approaching negotiation the right way can have a lot to do with whether your requests are accommodated. For example, if you’re in the negotiation process for a new position, don’t come in too early with salary demands. “Never negotiate the compensation before you negotiate the job,” she says, because you’re more attractive to an employer once you’ve demonstrated your passion, experience and skills. If you start negotiating before you’ve made those clear, you could cut off their interest prematurely.
The key is to do your research and come prepared with a salary range. “Use this research to inform your negotiating technique,” Hayes says. “Talk about what’s appropriate for the role based on your experience and what you have to offer.”
A similar technique can be used when you’re asking for a raise at your current job too. “Attach hard numbers to your accomplishments,” she says. “Be prepared to share examples of projects you completed and how your efforts have positively affected the company.”
If after you try to negotiate, your potential or current employer won’t consider a higher rate, it may not be a reflection on you. “There may be a salary cap that no amount of negotiation can loosen,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean you have to walk away empty-handed. “Apart from not negotiating at all, the most common mistake job seekers make is only negotiating salary,” Hayes says. Take into consideration other factors that are meaningful to you. For example, a change in responsibilities, the opportunity to work from a different location, more flexible hours or more vacation time.
Hayes offered a few other questions to ask before accepting or rejecting an offer:
- “Is this pay base only?”
- “Will there be a sign-on bonus?”
- “How will I be evaluated, and will there be an increase based on that evaluation?”
Still, if you ask for a raise and don’t get it, you’re not alone. A 2016 study by the Cass Business School in London suggests that women receive raises 25 percent less often than their male counterparts. While we continue to fight for equal pay on a legislative level, we’ll just have to keep doing the job-hunt research, articulating our expectations to current and future employers and seeking out companies who pay us accordingly.
A version of this article was originally published March 2018.