How to negotiate your salary

How to negotiate your salary like a girl boss

Negotiating salary is crucial for women to achieve equal pay and address the gender pay gap

Here we are in 2024 and we still have significant issues around women’s equality – over a century has passed since the Women’s Emancipation Bill of 1919, and, it is fair to say, that the aspiration of  the achievement of complete economic, social, political and religious equality of women with men over this period has been gradual, varied and incomplete. 

It’s not that we haven’t had wonderful women championing our cause, or leading by example, our long reigning sadly-departed Queen, the phenomenal force of Margaret Thatcher, the 1990s – crowd-pleasing Spice Girls, and ‘Girl Power’, but it’s still there – the gender pay gap  – this measures the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and woman, and in 2023  it was 14.3%.  

Is this a choice? Are women choosing to take lower paid jobs in order to juggle their work with other responsibilities around caring or simply achieving a better balance in their lives, or is it that men are paid more for doing exactly the same role? It is difficult to drill down into the statistics, but it is probably a bit of both.  If we feel that our skills are not being equally compensated then we can do something about it and the most effective tool to hone in the chest is the skill of negotiation, to try to improve the salaries of women and ensure that we are paid fairly in comparison with our male colleagues.  

Why you should negotiate your salary   

(and this is equally relevant for new jobs or promotions within your current employment, or salary reviews in your existing role) 

  • Salary negotiation for women seeking equal pay is a critical skill and a necessity in addressing the gender pay gap. 
  • It is a good thing to advocate for yourself and may even make you more desirable to an employer since negotiation is a great skill to demonstrate.  
  • Even a small negotiation can make a huge difference when you take into account the compounding effect of a higher starting salary. 
  • Future career moves will offer a percentage pay bump from what you currently earn, this will be a higher number if you negotiate now.  

Get over the mental barrier first….  

Reasons why people are afraid to negotiate salary in their job offers 

  • Afraid the company will retract the job offer – but this rarely happens – remember that the hiring process is expensive and stressful for the other side as well: screening resumes, analysing and choosing applications, and time to conduct interviews. If the offer is withdrawn purely based on an attempt to negotiate the salary, consider it a blessing in disguise as this could indicate an unhealthy work culture.  
  • Afraid the company will see any negotiation as a negative trait – but effective negotiating skills are desirable and expected. This is not personal, but professional, and it is not considered rude to advocate for yourself. 
  • Fears that the employer will prefer a cheaper candidate – but you got the offer of the job because the recruiters perceived you as the best fit, hence you are of more value to them, and they should be willing to reflect this in your salary.  
  • Afraid the employer might say no – of course the answer may be no for many legitimate reasons including budgetary and policy constraints or in comparison with the salaries of existing employees, but it may be possible to negotiate other things that are important to you as we will explore below.  

So you have braced yourself and are set to negotiate, but how do you actually do it? 

Why it is so important for women to negotiate their salary.

How to negotiate effectively 

  • Know your worth: prepare before your interview, specifically for the ‘what are your salary expectations?’ question. Research the typical salary range for your position and experience level in your industry and location. Websites like Glassdoor and PayScale can provide valuable salary data. Consider your qualifications, experience, and the value that you bring to the organisation. 
  • Highlight achievements: during negotiations, focus on your accomplishments, skills and contributions to past or present roles. Provide specific examples of how your work has positively impacted the organisation whether through increased revenue, cost savings or other measurable outcomes.  
  • Practice negotiation skills: rehearse your negotiation pitch beforehand and be prepared to confidently articulate why you deserve equal pay. Role-playing with a friend or mentor can help you feel more comfortable and assertive during the actual negotiation. 
  • Be assertive but polite:  approach the negotiation with a confident and assertive demeanour while remaining professional and respectful. Emphasize your value and qualifications without being aggressive or confrontational. 
  • Focus on the job, not on personal circumstances: keep the conversation centred on your professional qualifications, experience, and the value you bring to the organisation. Avoid discussing personal circumstances unless relevant to the negotiation. 
  • Consider non-salary benefits: if the employer is unable to meet your salary expectations, explore other forms of compensation such as flexible work arrangements, additional vacation time, professional development opportunities or performance-based bonuses. 
  • Know your rights: familiarize yourself with relevant laws and regulations related to equal pay and anti-discrimination (Equality Act 2010 which requires employers to pay men and women the same for work of equal value – read more about equal pay and law on the Acas website
  • Negotiate with confidence:  remember that negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process, and advocating for fair compensation is not only acceptable but essential. Approach the negotiation with confidence in your worth and the value you bring to the organisation. 

By equipping themselves with knowledge, confidence and negotiation skills, women can empower themselves to advocate for equal pay and bridge the gender pay gap in the workplace. 

Ten handy tips on negotiating the ‘magic number’. 
  1. Don’t over-sell yourself as this can come across as desperate. 
  1. Don’t negotiate loosely – be firm.  
  1. Don’t be defensive if asked to justify yourself. 
  1. Don’t be the first person to put out a number – this automatically gives you the weaker position. 
  1. Especially in the earlier interview stages, feel free to let the employer know that you need to learn more about the role before discussing a specific figure.  
  1. For interviewers that are pressing for you to name your price first give them a range, the bottom of the range should be the salary that you want. 
  1. Once the employer has suggested a figure, you can start to engage further in the conversation. Try not to give them a round number, giving a more specific number has been shown to improve your chances of getting the salary that you want.  
  1. Have a walkaway point. 
  1.  If the negotiation goes well be appreciative, it is assumed that you will accept the position. 
  1. And having concluded the negotiation you should withdraw from any other ongoing application processes. Be wary about not burning any other bridge, as you might wish to work with these companies in the future. 

Now that is the process of achieving a successful salary outcome, but of course, successful negotiation skills apply equally to both men and women, so why do women often fall behind?  

Why does the gender pay gap still exist? 

In order to understand why women have not been as effective as men in this area we need to confront the barriers in place to break down the norms influenced by societal, cultural, and individual factors. Here are some points to be aware of and consider:  

  • Socialisation and Gender Norms: from a young age, boys and girls are often socialised differently when it comes to assertiveness, negotiation and self-promotion with boys encouraged to be more assertive and competitive, while girls may be taught to prioritise cooperation and avoid conflict. These gender norms can impact negotiation styles later in life. 
  • Perceived Social Cost:  women may perceive a higher social cost for negotiating aggressively compared to men. They may fear as being perceived as ‘pushy’ or ‘demanding’ which could lead to backlash or negative evaluations from colleagues or employers. This fear of social repercussions may deter women from negotiating as assertively as men. 
  • Self-Efficacy and Confidence:  men often have higher levels of confidence and self-efficacy in negotiation situations compared to women. This confidence gap can influence negotiation outcomes, as individuals who believe in their ability to negotiate effectively are more likely to advocate for themselves and achieve better results 
  • Risk Aversion: women may be more risk-averse than men in negotiation situations, preferring to avoid potential conflict or rejection. This tendency can lead women to accept initial job offers without negotiating for higher salaries or better terms, whereas men may be more inclined to take risks and pursue higher rewards. 
  • Attribution Bias:  gender biases and stereotypes can influence how negotiation is perceived and evaluated. Research suggests that assertive behaviour is often viewed more positively in men than in women, who may be penalised for displaying similar levels of assertiveness. This attribution bias can disadvantage women in negotiation settings. 
  • Negotiation Strategies: Men tend to use more competitive and distributive negotiation strategies, focusing on maximizing their own outcomes, while women may employ more collaborative and integrative strategies, seeking mutually beneficial solutions. These differences in negotiation styles can impact the effectiveness of salary negotiation for men and women. 
  • Organisational Factors: Organisational culture and policies can also play a role in shaping gender differences in salary negotiation. Companies that promote transparency, equity and diversity may be more supportive of women’s negotiation efforts and less prone to gender biases in compensation decisions. 
Negotiate your salary

Prepare, prepare, prepare! 

It is wise to be aware of the differences in perceptions of negotiation strategies, as well as familiarising yourself with the most effective ways of negotiation, but above all know yourself and the facts, and this requires meticulous preparation. 

Finally a few days ago a bastion for women’s rights and the feminist movement, Shirley Conran died at the age of 91. Conran’s legacy in feminism and equal pay is multifaceted, encompassing her literary work, her advocacy for better working conditions for mothers, and her efforts to improve mathematical education and address anxiety around the subject. She was actively involved in campaigns for workplace equality, in 1998 she founded Mothers in Management which aimed to improve working conditions and flexible practices for working mothers. Later, in 2001, she established The Work-Life Balance Trust, advocating for flexible working hours for both men and women.  Her life’s work left a lasting impact on the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. Let’s continue to benefit from her work and legacy and ‘do it for Shirley’ and remember as she famously said ‘ life is too short to stuff a mushroom’.  

Once you have negotiated your new and improved fabulous salary and are wondering how to best organise your finances and investments remember that you can always contact an adviser at Women’s Wealth who will be delighted to guide you to making the most of your hard-earned gains. 

Book a free 15 minute call with Siafra

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