Asking for a raise or negotiating salary can be intimidating, even for the most seasoned employee. Still, many companies budget for it. In fact, according to Salary.com, 84% of employers say they always expect job applicants to negotiate their salary during the interview phase.
Some research has found that women are more reticent than men to negotiate salary offers. On the other hand, a 2017 study commissioned by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. found that women negotiate for raises at about the same rate as men. But men are more likely to say they haven’t asked for a raise because they got one without asking, or they were already being properly compensated. In other words, women have to ask for a raise because in most cases it won’t be offered.
Yahoo Finance spoke with three women who have successfully negotiated a higher salary. They offer tips on how they did it, how they felt, and why they would do it gain.
City: Minneapolis, Minn.
Job: Equity manager
I interviewed with the CEO of the company for a position as the Equity Manager, focusing on diversity and inclusion. It went really well. The CEO congratulated me on my prior career successes and informed me that I was their top candidate.
After the interview I called to ask about potential salary. They replied with a salary range spanning $30,000, and I wanted to be at the top end of that range — any less than that would be a huge pay cut from my previous job.
Soon enough, the HR manager from the company reached out and made the official offer, and the salary was less than than I made at my last job. I immediately told him that I needed more, and he suggested that I take another job if I had a better offer. I quickly responded that the CEO told me I was the lead candidate based on my background and experience, and probably wouldn’t want the HR manager to refer me to another company.
I knew that a higher salary was possible because of the salary range he had given me, and I was asking for $1,000 less than that cap. The HR personnel kept trying to sell me on the benefits package, but at the end of the day that didn’t put extra money in my pocket. And personally, I saw this as a new opportunity for the company. The CEO told me that he wanted to diversify the workforce. He said that he wanted to create an environment where women can be leaders, because their current senior level staff were all white men. If they wanted me, their top tier candidate, this is what it would take. So I asked the HR manager, “How do you know you can’t pay more? You didn’t ask.”
The next day he came back and offered me $10,000 more than the first offer. It was still a bit less than I wanted, but I also negotiated 5 weeks of vacation, so I felt great about the offer. Having this positive outcome felt liberating… I started playing “This girl is on fire,” by Alicia Keys when I got off of the phone.
I’ve been working for 20 years, and it was the first time I really understood the pay gap issue and how it exists. I urge other women to say the number they think they deserve. Say “This is the salary I need,” without over-explaining or coming up with excuses. If women stop accepting salaries that are less that what they are worth, that’s when we can start to move the needle.
Just ask. The worst thing they can say is no.
City: Lincoln, NE
Job: Executive Trainer and Business Development at FOCUS Training since 2013
I left my previous job (and financial stability), for a role at FOCUS training, where I knew that I would possibly make less money. So when I sat down to talk with FOCUS, I asked for transparency right from the beginning. I said, “This is what I want to make, is that possible?”
FOCUS is a small business, and I knew that raising salaries for employees would have a big impact on their bottom line. If the salary I asked for wasn’t possible, I needed to know right off the bat.
I had the confidence to ask for what I wanted because this wasn’t my first time negotiating. The first time I was 24, working in corporate America, and terrified. It was during the recession, and I was turned down for my raise at that time. But worse than that, I was made to feel that asking for money was inappropriate, and that I should wait for a raise to be dictated to me.
With FOCUS it was different, but still a bit nerve-wracking. We went back and forth four times to negotiate my salary, and I also asked for specific benefits. One thing I’ve learned from working at a small business is that they don’t always follow FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] rules when it comes to family leave. I knew I wanted to start a family, so I asked for 8 weeks paid maternity leave upfront. They agreed to the maternity leave and we settled on a fair salary.
After five years with FOCUS, I went back and negotiated my salary again. I was doing really well, and meeting my commitment to the company, bringing in beyond what I said I would do. During my time, business had improved by 56% — that’s how I knew it was time to ask for more money. I was originally paid a salary plus commission. This time, I used my performance to negotiate a higher salary and remove the pressure of commission.
A lot of women don’t ask because they feel like they are being impolite, but it’s important to do your research and know what you’re worth.
Title: Director of Philanthropy and Communications at a nonprofit
I’ve always worked for nonprofits, which aren’t really known for their lucrative salaries.
Even so, I’ve negotiated for more money in at least five instances during my career. Each time I felt empowered and validated afterwards. It wasn’t about the money, I was just proud of myself.
I’ve always enjoyed my work with nonprofits, and while I want money to go to the programming, I also needed to make sure I was getting paid a fair wage. During every performance review I would try to negotiate a higher salary. My strategy, though, wasn’t just to cite my accomplishments and ask for more money. Instead, I learned that it was more effective to detail all of the things I would do in the future.
By spelling out what I could offer, it made them feel more comfortable giving me a raise. They could see that I wanted to contribute to the company and that I saw a future with the organization. From my experience, the senior staff and board members in the room were usually taken aback when I came into the room with confidence and ideas for the future.
The third time I used this strategy, the senior staff said, “I’ve never had anyone state it like that before.” They pushed back a little, and took some time to think, but eventually came back and were able to accommodate my request.
Another thing I’ve learned to do is negotiate from the beginning. When I first graduated from college, I was so excited about my first job opportunity that I just accepted the salary they offered. I quickly learned that the compensation wasn’t what it should have been. The next time I was in that position, I made sure to negotiate from the start. It’s always harder to ask for more money later.
While negotiating a raise is important, it’s not always about money. During one of my negotiations I was able to get additional vacation days and multiple remote days to work from home. I told my boss that I work better when I am rejuvenated and invigorated. They agreed, and also gave me a financial raise as well.
When I was a child my mom would tell me Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That idea has followed me throughout my life, and especially through my career. Ultimately it comes down to asking for what you’re worth. Remember, no one else will do it for you.
Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.