How Should Women Ask for a Pay Rise?

We expect women to be giving and collaborative, so when they advocate for themselves, we often see them unfavourably. When women negotiate for pay rises, we see them as “self-interested” and “aggressive” but when men negotiate, we seem them as “confident” and “capable”. This social pushback can negatively affect the results of women’s negotiations and their careers. Below are a few quick tips for women to negotiate effectively and efficiently.

  1. Ask for a Raise – Let’s start with the basics. Both women and men who ask for a raise are more likely to report getting one than those who don’t speak up. However, we can’t ignore the fact that women still get less than men when they do ask. According to Harvard Business Review, women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of time. It doesn’t sound a lot but over a lifetime it really adds up. So, what should women do when negotiating?
  2. Make the First Offer – You should make the first offer in a negotiation. The research has consistently demonstrated a relationship between the first offer amount and the economic outcome. This is known as the “anchoring effect” where the first piece of information in a negotiation acts as an anchor that influences the outcomes. Women may avoid making the first offer because they want to avoid confrontation and damaging of relationships but there are technics that they can use to get around this.
  3. Specify an Amount and Aim High – Women are significantly less likely to ask for a specific amount, but on average, people who are specific receive a greater increase in compensation than those who aren’t. So, next time when you ask for a pay rise, specify an amount. Men ask for more money than women do. Therefore, ask an amount that’s higher than your ideal pay. You can always come down from a high goal but it’s harder to increase your goal once that first offer has been made.
  4. Prepare – Many people take the time to research their worth before a negotiation. A much smaller percentage talk to others about how to approach the issue and then rehearse the actual conversation. Make sure you do! There’s evidence that people who take those additional steps are more likely to get a raise. The practice will take away your anxiety. Role-play with a friend and experiment what you want to say and how you want to say it. Layout a case why it’s in your company’s best interest to pay you more. Anticipate their response and how you may deal with them.
  5. Make Your Best Pitch – Women and men who successfully negotiate for a raise or a promotion are more likely to make the case that they have: Demonstrated that they are a high performer; Taken on greater workload; Taken on the responsibilities of the next level. Therefore, prepare your case carefully and collect supporting documents. Go into the meeting with a positive attitude and a collaborative approach. Ask for your manager’s input and feedback. When you encounter pushbacks, say something like “I am sure we can work out a solution that is mutually beneficial”.
  6. Solicit Manager Support – people who get advice from managers on how to advance and who land stretch assignments are more likely to receive raises. So, speak up and ask your manager for help. It’s particularly important that women push for this type of support because they are less likely to receive it from managers. Establish formal mentorship or sponsorship relationships with your manager or with an influential person within your company and ask for their support.

As you practice, the skill of negotiation will mature over time. Whether you get what you’re asking for, somewhere in between, or nothing at all, you will learn more about your role in the company and how you should move forward. Keep an open mind, be collaborative yet assertive and always be prepared to negotiate your next pay rise.


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