Last Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Today is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day to spread awareness of the wage gap between men and women in the workplace. Equal Pay Day is celebrated on a different date each year; the date “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the group who created the day in 1996.
On average, women earn 80.7 cents to every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $9,909 less than men’s, according to Business Insider and the US Census Bureau. The gender wage gap isn’t expected to close until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
If you’re ready to close that gap today, here are four tips for women to negotiate the salary they deserve.
1. Don’t guess your market value
Do your due diligence by getting an idea for the fair market value of the role you’re interviewing for. Websites such as Glassdoor, Salary.com, and PayScale give you a realistic idea of the compensation range you should expect from your potential employer. Be sure to factor in your previous experience, education level, and cost of living in the geographic location of the job. Use this information to define a salary range you’ll need to accept a job offer.
2. Never answer “What’s your expected salary?”
Your salary expectations are one of the few cards you have to play once negotiations with a potential employer start, so avoid giving them a number. If you show your salary card, it can make your salary negotiations difficult and most likely leave money on the table you could have pocketed. When asked what your salary expectation is, answer “I’m not comfortable sharing that information. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company and not on a specific number at this time.”
If they pressure you to answer, pretend you’re a politician and respectfully redirect the question back to them. Another great response is: “I don’t have a specific number in mind for the desired salary, and you know better than I do what value my skill set and experience could bring to your company.”
If they say something along the lines of, “I need to know your range so I can determine whether we should keep talking.” Response: “It sounds like you’re trying to qualify me for a salary range. If you want to tell me what that range is, I’m happy to tell you if it’s in my ballpark.”
3. Know your “walk-away” number
This crucial step in the process sets you up for a win-win outcome. The employer will either:
- Meet or exceed your number, and you’ll start your new job feeling like a valuable and supported member of the organization, empowering you to do the absolute best job you can;
- Or they won’t meet your number, and you’ll walk away confident it wasn’t going to be a good long-term fit because they didn’t recognize your value.
Avoid the temptation to take any number for fear another opportunity won’t come along. If you accept a salary below the number you committed to yourself, you may never feel good about working for that organization. This may make the position a short-lived one, and it won’t reflect well on your résumé to future employers.
4. Always counter
If you’ve received a lowball offer—a number typically 20% below your lowest acceptable salary—you should counter at your walk-away number. If their offer is not a lowball, counter at 10%–20% above their offer. If you can get a 20% increase, you can take to heart that they really want you on the team and are willing to work to bring you on board.
The job search process can be very uncomfortable when it comes to being assertive about what you deserve. You’ll likely be tempted to give in and accept a number below the minimum you initially resigned to. But if you can find comfort in the discomfort, you’ll develop a skill that will benefit you for the entirety of your career.
For more advice on how to succeed in your field, check out our Internships and Careers section.