For those of us fortunate enough to receive a regular paycheck, our salary serves as validation that we’re good at what we do—and that we deserve to get paid for what we’re good at. And, while getting paid is good and all, the unfortunate reality is that so, so many women are not getting paid what they deserve. (Hi, yes, we’re talking about the pay gap!) On average, women earn about .80 cents of what men earn during the same time period. This discrepancy only widens when you break down the pay gap by race and ethnicity. Latina women, for instance, earn only .54 cents of what the average white, non-Hispanic employee earns.
While the number can be depressing and frustrating, there’s at least one tool at your disposal that can help you close the gap. You can negotiate a higher pay grade for yourself. Does it sound scary? If it does, you’re not the only one holding back from negotiating. In a Glassdoor/Harris poll, 68 percent of women surveyed said they had not negotiated their last paycheck, compared to 52 percent of men. Of those who did negotiate, significantly fewer got the pay raise.
In the spirit of creating more salary transparency, we went ahead and asked seven women about how they successfully negotiated a salary raise. Here’s how they made it. happen.
How I increased my salary
“Having some data behind you helps you feel more confident”
Name: Talia Brienza
Age: 24 (22 at time of negotiation)
City: Los Angeles (NYC when negotiating the salary)
Profession Currently: Health and wellness professional
Profession When Negotiating: Compliance associate for a FinTech company
Years in profession: 2
I increased my salary by: 50%
I was an hourly employee at the time, but also had full benefits.
Final salary: $30 / hour
Negotiated in: 2016
How did you prepare for your ask? I reached out to people in similar type companies to ask their opinion about how much seemed fair and conducted some market research. I even consulted with my manager to get a feel for how much she thought would be appropriate. Honestly, most of their responses were surprising because what they thought was appropriate was 25% more than what I was at first glance going to ask for. I’m glad I delved a bit deeper and had the courage to follow through.
How did you present the information? The meeting was short, I believe I started with some tidbits about the research I had done, and then he asked how much I wanted, I stated, and then he just said “OK”.
Did you receive any pushback? Not at all.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? Like I was a valuable member of the team and that I was being compensated fairly, especially as a (young) woman in the FinTech world.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? I am not a negotiator in the slightest, but I think that having some data behind you helps you feel more confident. Just go for it, but make sure you have a minimum amount you are willing to accept. If they aren’t willing to meet you there, it’s probably best to start looking elsewhere.
“It’s hard to fight facts and equality”
Name: Shelby Monita
City: Toronto, Canada
Profession: Cafe Assistant Manager
Years in profession: 3
By how much did you increase your salary? $1/hour
When did this occur? 10 years ago
How did you prepare for your ask? I went through a list in my head, all the reasons why I felt I deserved it. To me, a raise seemed very obvious, but I had to make sure I made it obvious to my boss as well.
How did you present the information? I just let facts be facts. I first let him know how much I was appreciating the job and all the extra responsibility that was given to me. I then mentioned some of my accomplishments and reminded him of a few compliments he had given me in the past. I then also threw in how I am a harder worker than my co-worker who was a man, and let my boss know I was aware I was making less than that co-worker. I told him for all the extra work I do, while my co-worker did the bare minimum, I should at least be getting equal pay.
Did you receive any pushback? Not really, it’s hard to fight facts and equality.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? I felt empowered. Even though this situation was years ago, I still think about it today when I feel I am treated unfairly. I think back to how strong and sure I was in that moment and channel it when making negotiations today.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Stand up for yourself, because no one else will. Use all your determination and possibly some underlining anger and turn that into the confidence you need to get your point across. And remember to always remain calm, after all it’s just business.
“I set time to discuss my merit increase”
Name: Melanie Call
City: Salt Lake City, UT
Profession:Senior business systems analyst
Years in profession:2 years total, but had project management experience but for more than 5+ years in different industries.
By how much did you increase your salary by? 10%
Final salary: 6 digits (finally)
When did this occur?Mid-year basically for me. I was on maternity leave and came back to work. I felt bad at first and too many times this guilt comes in. My employer gave me more flexibility like working from home one day a week (something I requested previously). I knew even though I had (some) flexibility, I deserved a raise based on performance alone. I told myself,” “Give it 30 days once you’re back from maternity leave.” At the 30 day mark, I placed it on my calendar prior and sent out an agenda.
During my 1:1, I asked to set time to specifically discuss my, “merit increase.” I told myself there’s no harm in asking and having a document of all my accomplishments. If I ever felt bad about myself on work-related things, I could reference that document to cheer myself up. When he said, “yes, let’s do it,” I labeled the meeting invite “Merit Increase Discussion.”
How did you prepare for your ask? I created a Power Point presentation (no more than 10 slides). It’s like marketing yourself, your contribution to the team, and how it empowers others. Create the narrative and have the facts to back you up. I titled it, “2017-2018/IT Program Portfolio.”
How did you present the information? I charted my year with a simple outline in a timeline format and had talking points to go along with my slides. The little number of photos I used were to make statements about my end results.
Did you receive any pushback? Yes, about how I faced challenges and directness. This, however, was about soft skills that anyone can work on. I turned my negatives into to positives.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? It was nice to see them recognize and respect the work I have done but I respected it first and foremost. I know that my leader appreciates my efforts and the contribution I’ve made.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Document your work weekly. Usually, I have a journal with a header for weekly reviews for that week. (i.e January 7-11, 2018 week #2). I’ll write in functions under buckets like this:
- Administrative tasks
- To Do’s
- Development activities
- Project Updates (each project your supporting needs it’s own line with project title)
- Next week
Leave the document up on you computer so at the end of the day you remember to add something to it. Think of it like a status report. Even if it seems small, you will see how it progresses week after week. All the little decisions that get made will add up to major decisions in the end. Also, another good thing about keeping a record is it can be useful as part of your work portfolio if you decide to go to another company. You’re the CEO of your career journey after all.
“Demonstrate your worth, and know your worth”
Name: Sucely Duran
City: Los Angeles, CA
Profession: Senior Supervisor of Field Operations
Years in profession: 1.5 as a senior supervisor (but have been working for the company for 4 years)
By how much did you increase your salary? $6
Final salary: $17/hr
When did this occur? Summer 2017
How did you prepare for your ask? After my 90 days, I knew $11 wasn’t going to cut it for me. I had student loans, a new car I had to pay for, and my family and I were struggling financially and were on the search for a new house because the place we were currently living in was on the verge of foreclosure. I had recently graduated college and I made it clear to my managers at the time of hire that I wanted to grow within the company. During my 90 days, I made sure I put my best foot forward and my managers noticed me and my performance. Knowing that I wanted more for myself is what gave me the courage to ask after I completed my initial 90 days.
How did you present the information? I was honest with my manager at the time and told her that $11 wasn’t going to be enough for me, especially because I had so many financial responsibilities. She bumped me up to $13 after speaking with her higher ups. After a few months, my manager at the time told me there was a new position that had just opened in the company in the Field Operations department and that she felt I was a great fit and asked if I would be interested in taking that position. I immediately said yes.
Within two weeks, I was bumped to Local Representative Supervisor, and was making $15/hr. At this point, I was in a better position finically, but as the months passed I realized it still wasn’t enough to cover my expenses. My new managers also took notice of the work I was doing and eventually I expressed to them that I may need to look elsewhere for higher compensation. My manager fought for me and suggested to her higher ups I deserved a higher pay and that I was planning to leave. They didn’t want to lose me either so they were able to present me with a reasonable salary and soon enough I was promoted to Senior Supervisor of Field operations.
Did you receive any pushback? Not at all, I think I’m pretty grateful to have understanding managers and higher ups. I think they really didn’t want to lose me as an employee which is why they were willing to give me a raise. I’ve demonstrated my skills to them and they probably know they wouldn’t find another employee like me who handles multiple tasks all at the same time. I probably do the job of 4 people.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? I felt really happy and felt some financial relief! I also felt like I’ve come a long way in such a short period of time. While I’m still an hourly employee and not on a fixed salary, it still feels like an great accomplishment to be able to work your way up.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Having a “can do” attitude will get you far. Demonstrate your worth, and know your worth. If your managers do not take notice of your worth and you know you deserve so much more, then it’s time to look elsewhere. I know I would have left if my managers didn’t value my worth or the work and dedication I put into my job.
“Once I was sure they wanted me, I had a chat with HR”
Name: Karla Mattei
City: Miami, FL
Profession: Multinational Network Manager
Years in profession: 7
By how much did you increase your salary? This is a tough question, I was earning my salary in pesos at the time, so I basically quadruplicated my salary from one moment to the next if I compare it to dollars, but we also need to consider that living in the US is more expensive than Buenos Aires.
Final salary: I quadrupled my salary from Argentina to Miami but after a year in Miami I got another raise (+10k).
When did this occur? This was in 2016, and the raise in 2017
How did you prepare for your ask? I had a list of things I wanted to ask for, the ideal world. I asked for everything knowing of course, some stuff was not really necessary or a priority for me. So I created two lists, one labeled “Negotiable” and the second one “Mandatory to move,” this included a Green Card (I knew some people moved and after a while were let go and had to move back again); moving with my cat (plane tickets, etc.), and a good enough salary to live at the same level I lived in Argentina. Everything else, was negotiable: Seniority, holidays, hotel to find an apartment, a car, tickets to go home for emergencies, parking space, work from home days, bonus, job grade, office, lunch tickets and all other benefits.
How did you present the information? I first had a call and even though they wanted me for the role, they make you apply through the system as any other participant. So I sold myself as the best person for the role, of course. Once I was sure they wanted me I had a chat with HR and another one with my future boss and asked for everything.
They came back and confirmed some of the basic stuff: parking space at the office, cell phone, etc. They said they were checking on the Green Card but that they could offer the L1 visa, etc. thats when I said I am not moving without that item, explained my reasons and they agreed. Later on the salary came up, they offered 92K plus bonus, so at that point I decided to be honest and I said I was going to accept the offer regardless but that I wanted to make sure that was the best that they could do, even if I gave up some of the other stuff, they reverted making a few twitches and added 6k.
Did you receive any pushback? Yes, at first, but they needed me and I knew it. It’s cool how good you can feel during a negotiation when you know you have leverage, but its important not to take too much advantage of that, just make sure you get your needs, your wants can wait—don’t get too greedy or you might lose it all.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? Awesome.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Believe that they need you and will want to meet your needs, mainly if its a big company. Believe in yourself and have no mercy when asking; the worst case will be they say they cannot do X Y or Z and then you’ll decide if thats good enough or not.
“I prepared for different scenarios”
Name: Catherine T
City: New York, NY
Profession: Interior Designer
Years in profession: 1 year
By how much did you increase your salary? $17,500
Final salary: $65,000
How did you prepare for your ask? Before meeting with my boss, I received a higher salary offer from another firm. Going into my one-year review with my boss, I used this as ammunition to ask for the raise I wanted. I prepared by planning out different scenarios and responses my boss could have said to me. I had three different scenes planned for going into this conversation:
- Option 1: he would completely deny my request and only offer me the typical yearly raise of $5,000.
- Option 2: he would meet me halfway and offer me $10,000.
- Option 3: he would say yes to my request and offer me the full raise I wanted, $17,500. I had my responses to each option planned out. Can you tell I was over-prepared to get what I wanted?
How did you present the information? I began the conversation by reviewing all the accomplishments I had made for the firm over the past year. I talked about my industry involvement in organizations such as ASID, and my plans to take the NCIDQ test to become a certified interior designer. After doing this, he said he was happy with my work and that he would like to offer me the standard $5,000 raise, plus a little extra, which would have brought my salary to $55,000. I then explained that I deserved more because of the assets I bring to the firm, and that I would like $17,500 because that is what I was offered by another firm, but I would prefer to stay at my current company.
Did you receive any pushback? Absolutely. My boss was not at all prepared for my counteroffer and he was quite taken aback. I stood strong and talked with him for a long time. It was only at the time of push back that I came back with my counter offer. When I felt unsteady about continuing to say no to a lower raise, I thought to myself, “what would a man do in my shoe?”. The answer was to stay strong, so that’s what I did.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? Elated with disbelief that I got what I wanted. I felt powerful and confident.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Go in with what you truly want and believe you deserve but be prepared to leave if you don’t get it. If my boss had stuck with his initial answer and decided to not meet my request, I would have left the company. There’s no reason to stay at a firm that does not value what you do for them.
“Always understand the company goals”
City: Los Angeles
Years in profession: 11
By how much did you increase your salary? $10k
Final salary: $101k
How did you prepare for your ask? I thought about each of my programs and how they drive the company top line revenue, then I pulled some numbers to support that and typed it up in a Word doc to share with my boss.
How did you present the information? I asked for a meeting with my boss in advance so they had time to prepare, then took in a written document to present my contributions to the company.
Did you receive any pushback? Not really.
How did you feel once you got your salary raise? Motivated.
Any advice for others trying to do the same? Always understand the company goals and try to quantify your contributions towards them.