Today, April 4, is Equal Pay Day, a date that symbolizes how far into the year women have to work to earn the same amount men earned in the previous year. The day was established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity to bring awareness to the fact that, despite laws like the Equal Pay Act, there is still a glaring gender wage gap in the United States.
Women working full-time in the U.S. are paid just 80% of what men are, and women of color earn even less. And, though progress has been made, it’s extraordinarily slow. “This is not a problem that was solved with our mothers and grandmothers,” Caroline Ghosn, the CEO and founder of professional network Levo, tells Teen Vogue. “This is a problem that we’re facing and, statistically speaking, it’s a problem that our daughters will unfortunately continue to face.”
Of course, the dreary statistics don’t mean we shouldn’t fight for equality — though actually doing so can be overwhelming. According to Levo’s own survey, that polled more than 1,000 of its members, 78% of women don’t feel comfortable going into a salary negotiation and that they’d like to change that. To help get them there, Levo launched its 5th annual Ask4More campaign, providing information, tips, and tools to help women feel empowered and prepared to do just that. After all, the reality right now is that, “you do not get what you deserve; you get what you ask for,” Ghosn says.
But how exactly do you ask for the pay you do deserve? We talked to Ghosn to get some tips.
Start negotiating with your very first job. Salary negotiation can be intimidating at any level, but certainly when you’re just starting out in your first job. And if you feel that way, you’re not alone: 58% of Levo’s survey respondents did not negotiate their first salary. But, you don’t have to have years of work experience to stand up for your worth. In fact, it’s important that you do start early. As you move through your career, hiring managers “make decisions based off of what your salary history is,” Ghosn says. “You have got to start off on the right foot. This is the kind of thing that starts as a small difference when you’re in your first job [or] second job, but over time the percentage increases.” According to data from the [National Women’s Law Center](http://nwlc.org/resources/the-lifetime-wage-gap-state-by-state/), based on today’s wage gap, women stand to lose $418,800 over the course of a 40-year-career — and that number is even greater for female minorities. But, Ghosn notes, you can work to minimize that number by setting up a strong salary foundation with your first job that you can continue to build on for years. “It starts from the starting line in this marathon,” she says.
Do your research. In order to successfully negotiate your salary, you need to be prepared. As soon as you know you’re going to meet with someone about the job or salary, start doing your research.“You’ve got to put in the work before you walk in the room,” Ghosn says. Start by researching the title of the job you’re looking for: You can use resources like Glassdoor or the Bureau of Labor Statistics to search the exact title and find out the standard salary range for that role.
Be sure to narrow your research down by region and company size, as those factors affect salary. “There’s nothing more discrediting than saying, ‘Oh, the salary range for this engineering position is XYZ,’ and the person will ask you, ‘Great, what’s the source on that?’ and you say, ‘It’s for engineering salaries in the Bay Area’ when you’re based in New York,” Ghosn says. If you present something like that to a hiring manager, they can simply tell you it’s not relevant. That’s also the case for company size: For example, a start-up likely won’t pay the same range as a huge Fortune 500 company. “You need to do as much research as you can so that it is clear, defensible data, that it’s for your area, that it’s for the appropriate job title, and that it’s for the appropriate size of the company,” Ghosn says. If you have friends applying or interviewing for similar jobs, you can even use each other as resources to find out what the going rate for your job title is at a competitive company.
And make sure you understand the responsibilities that are associated with the salary range you’re requesting. Look at what’s listed along with the job description of the role you applied for, as well as the comparable positions you found in your research.
Present your data with your ask. All of that research you do will help you clearly justify the salary you’re requesting. For example, Ghosn suggests framing your ask by stating something like, “‘My understanding based on my market research is the value that this set of responsibilities fetches in the marketplace is X to Y,’ with X to Y being specific numbers that you can back up,” she says. “Then you can pause [and say], ‘Is that consistent with your perspective?’” If the answer is yes, “You can say, ‘Great, we’re on the same page. My understanding of the responsibilities that go along with that are A, B, and C. Is that consistent with your perspective?’” and clarify what this specific role will entail. If you’r still in agreement, Ghosn says you’ll likely be presented with an offer within the range you already discussed — at which point, you can negotiate for the high end of that range, emphasizing that you intend to put in “the higher end of that value for the role” Ghosn says. “You’re demonstrating a willingness in that conversation to be super open about how you are going to kill it,” she says. “Your hope, your goal, is to get really clear so you can establish a basis for success.”
Plan for pushback. Of course, just because you do your research doesn’t mean you’ll immediately be met with a “yes.” But, because you’ve done your research, you’ll be prepared to continue the negotiation rather than just accept a “no.” If the hiring manager disagrees with the salary range you present, “All you do is politely ask, ‘That’s different from what I found. Can you share the sources?’” Ghosn says. Usually, she notes, you’ll receive a fairly vague response and you can counter it by once again presenting your own findings. “You can say, ‘Thank you for sharing that with me,’ and then you can pull out, ‘Here’s the research I was able to find on this role and salary range for it. Please feel free to keep this. Let me know if you want to discuss further at a later time.’”
Prepare a list of alternative asks. It’s also possible that you’ll be told the company simply doesn’t have the budget to pay you your desired salary, even if they believe it’s the fair market value. In that case, Ghosn says, you can discuss an exchange of sorts. “Part of the preparation is having a list of things you’re willing to do instead to compensate for the salary range,” she says. “One is to say, ‘I completely understand that. Until what period of time will that be in place? Because if that’s the case for the next year until we raise the next round of funding, for example, can we agree as part of this conversation that at that point in time, we will discuss bringing my salary up to market and a bonus to compensate for the forfeited salary between now and then?’” If you go that route, be sure to specify that those increases would be contingent on your quality performance. “You’re never saying, ‘I’m going to slack off and I want you to pay me more,’” Ghosn says. “You’re saying, ‘I’m going to do super well and I just want to be super clear on our agreements moving forward.’”
If the person you’re speaking with agrees, get the plan in writing, and move forward. If not, you can ask what other forms of compensation they can offer to make up for the gap. Things like additional vacation days, a set bonus structure based on performance milestones, and flexible working hours all have value. For example, Ghosn says, if you agree to work four days a week for the lower salary range, you can use the fifth day to take on other clients or do other jobs, depending on your career path. If you are able to negotiate these other forms of compensation, “You’re not ‘taking it and losing,’” Ghosn says. “You’re figuring out how to get to a place with salary and other benefits and comps where you feel good and where you’re at market. And they will appreciate [that you’re] thorough, ‘and she understands how this works and she understands what she’s worth.’”
Be collaborative, not combative. And you won’t just get that appreciation from negotiating an “exchange” of sorts. If you approach the conversation in a professional, thorough, and collaborative manner, chances are you’ll leave a positive impression. “If you’re hiring someone and they come to you, and they do a really good job of communicating what they believe is fair for the job that you’re hiring for, and they’ve done their research, they’ve looked around the market they’ve presented clear data with sources, and they’ve demonstrated a commitment to really kill it and perform, then you actually walk out of that conversation impressed with them,” Ghosn says. “Because you [think], ‘This person does their research, they get ready for conversations with me, they really want to be successful and they understand exactly what it means to be successful.’”
When you walk into that room with confidence, and you show that you’ve already put in a ton of work for this job that you haven’t even started, you’re showing that hiring manager something that your resume can’t alone convey. “This can be a conversation that actually elevates the esteem and respect that the other person has for you,” Ghosn says. “View it as an opportunity. In any job, you’re going to be required to have tough conversations...and what you’re actually doing in this conversation is you’re proving to the person across the table that you can hold your own and you can do it well. And that’s only going to increase your opportunities and chances in your career. So don’t be afraid of it. This is actually a massive opportunity for you.”
Value yourself. Ultimately, in order to be successful in salary negotiations, you have to not only know your value, but believe it. Putting in the work to prepare ahead of time can certainly help you walk into that room with confidence, and the confidence you have in yourself will make it more likely that others gain confidence in you. “It’s sort of like…’You can’t respect others until you respect yourself’ or, ‘You can’t love others until you love yourself,’” Ghosn says. “This is very much the same principle. You can’t value others until you value yourself. And if you exhibit in that conversation...that you understand your value and that you’re super open and collaborative about having a conversation, then that person is going to be like, ‘She understands her value. I value her more as a result.’”
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.
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