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How Women Negotiating Salary Compensation Can Get What They Deserve

Asking for more pay at work is not easy for most people. But when it comes to women negotiating salary increases, it appears to be especially challenging. Despite what some politicians and media personalities may lead you to believe, the gender pay gap is very real. Here are hard facts to prove it.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:[1]

  • The median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the fourth quarter of 2021 were $1,010. Men had median weekly earnings of $1,103. Women had weekly earnings of $930. This means women only earned 84.3 percent of what their male counterparts made.
  • The earnings ratio between women and men also varied by race and ethnicity. White women earned 83.2 percent of their male counterparts. Black women earned 99.4 percent, Asian women earned 77.7 percent, and Hispanic women earned 86.7 percent.

The obvious and immediate disadvantage of the gender income gap is a lower paycheck. However, this trend has less obvious long-term effects that can be quite substantial. For example, women who accept a lower salary are also likely to have fewer contributions to their 401(k) and IRA retirement accounts, lower contributions to Social Security (which will over time yield lower benefits), and less money available to save to an emergency fund. All that leaves them vulnerable to financial distress.

Getting a higher paycheck now can help you reverse that trend, make up for lost ground, and allow compounding to work in your favor. In other words, your future will most certainly thank you. With that in mind, here are some strategies that women can use to negotiate a higher salary and get paid what they’re worth.

5 Salary Negotiation Tips for Women

Whether you’ve been asked to accept more responsibility, are actively seeking a promotion, or just haven’t received a pay increase in the last few years, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself the best chances of success.

1. Be Prepared for the Tough Questions

No one is going to simply hand over more money just because you asked for it. In order to qualify for a wage increase, you’ll likely have to go through a series of interviews. Some of these interviews may be formal, perhaps with higher-level managers or HR personnel that you’ve never interacted with before.

A good way to prepare for these interviews is to practice ahead of time — just as you would for a new job interview. You may find it helpful to prepare responses to STAR-style interview questions,[2] listing specific positive results or accomplishments. Write out recent examples and stories that demonstrate your value to the company, proven track record, and readiness for the next step.

2. Know Your Worth

Before approaching management, it will be helpful to research current market rates for the work you do. Look at sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com and use these figures to calibrate your expectations during the salary negotiation.

At the same time, reflect on the minimum amount you’d feel comfortable accepting. This won’t be the number you start with in your negotiations, but it may be a fork in the road that determines whether you ultimately stay or leave.

3. Sell Your Ability to Produce Results

The number one thing management wants to know is if you’re the person they can count on to get the job done. Convince them by showing proof. During negotiations, emphasize your track record in producing results. Remember also to highlight the times when you were a part of a successful team. Employers appreciate those who can work well with others.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Suggest a Counteroffer

When an employer makes you an offer, it may be a figure that’s comfortable for them (but perhaps not so great for you). This is why it’s important to do your research and know the salary you’re looking for, both in terms of ideal maximum and minimum level. When the offer doesn’t land quite where you’d hoped, it is fair game to come back with an alternative.

Doing this can feel scary. After all, according to research from the Indeed Hiring Lab, 77 percent of men versus 62 percent of women are comfortable asking for a promotion.[3] Maintain your composure by remembering the 4 C’s: be cool, calm, collected, and confident.[4] And remember, now is not the time to be timid. It’s perfectly okay to thank your employer for their offer and to follow that with a counter that gets the ultimate number closer to your reasonable figure.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

If the offer doesn’t meet your standards, you may have to face the need for a Plan B. Some employers can’t (or won’t) change your salary, no matter what arguments you present. Rather than fight an impasse, the best thing to do in that situation may be to start looking for a better job.

Though changing jobs may cause some short-term discomfort, this path offers many potential upsides. It could lead to a more exciting career path, a greater earning potential, and a better work environment. Sometimes, the only regret people who change jobs express is having waited too long.

Benefits Are Negotiable, Too

When talking with your employer, don’t forget that negotiation isn’t limited by the number on your paycheck. Some companies have salary brackets that are rigidly defined and hard to break — but it may be possible to get other types of accommodations that contribute to a greater overall benefits package and a better quality of life for you.

Other negotiable benefits may include:

  • Bonuses
  • Profit-sharing opportunities
  • Equity compensation
  • Additional vacation days
  • Flexible start / end times
  • Work from home days

Though some of these benefits won’t directly increase your paycheck, they may lead to a better work-life balance. As we adjust to living in a post-pandemic world, sometimes those accommodations can prove to be more valuable than money.

Check out our podcast series Executive Decisions to hear insight from leaders in the current corporate world.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cps/earnings.htm#demographics

[2] https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/how-to-use-the-star-interview-response-technique

[3] https://www.hiringlab.org/2021/03/02/gender-gap-widens-in-pandemic/

[4] https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/negotiating-with-confidence

Disclosure: The opinions expressed herein are those of SYM Financial Corporation (“SYM”) and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to sell any product. SYM reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Information was obtained from third party sources which we believe to be reliable but are not guaranteed as to their accuracy or completeness. SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees, and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.

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