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Women in the Workplace: How To Negotiate Like a Boss

You deserve more money. Here’s how to get it.

Women in the Workplace: How To Negotiate Like a Boss

Closed mouths don’t get fed. It’s a saying we’ve probably heard our mother and mother’s mother use time and time again, but it doesn’t seem to take true shape until we’ve reached adulthood. From enforcing boundaries to demanding our needs be met, we have to advocate for ourselves constantly, stumbling through life while making sure our romantic, platonic, and familial relationships honor our worth. The idiom seems to take on a much deeper meaning when applied to our professional lives.

The wage gap between genders is a societal tragedy: according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned $.82 cents for every man’s dollar. Within that, women of color earn $0.75 for every white man’s dollar. It’s beginning to narrow for younger women as they increase their education levels and break into occupations traditionally dominated by men, but data also shows that it widens again as women age. 

As we continue to assert ourselves in every avenue of the workforce, it’s important not to shrink ourselves into saying yes to an initial offer with a desperate sense of urgency. Instead, factor in what you’re truly offering this company and the value of your life force, negotiating to make sure you’re getting paid your worth.


Why Is It Hard For Women To Negotiate?

Is it hard for women to negotiate, or is there a glass ceiling we’ve been trapped under? Referring to the invisible barriers women and minorities face in the workplace, writer Marilyn Loden coined the term in 1978, though it very much exists in modern day. Upward mobility has proven impossible for many women in a professional ecosystem, only being able to navigate within entry-level and base salary terms. While operating within an archaic patriarchy, women have been coddled into accepting the bare minimum because we’re both directly and indirectly told that that’s all we’re worth. And even when we do demand more, we’re met with resistance or nonchalance. Women are proven to get advanced degrees at higher rates than men, as well as play a key role in the labor market, yet are finding difficulty landing leadership positions and subsequent higher pay.

Do women negotiate as much as men? In a recent study conducted by Glassdoor, 68% of female job candidates took the original salary offer without negotiating; while only 52% of men did. Clearly, there’s a discrepancy here. The gender differences in negotiation can be partially chalked up to deeply ingrained societal gender roles. Women are groomed to be accommodating and modest, while men are taught to be competitive and assertive. The gender gap in negotiated outcomes spotlights the discomfort many women feel while negotiating on their own behalf, risking potential social backlash for doing so.

However, as we reclaim “bitch” and repackage it as “boss,” it’s crucial to remember that we can be the change we want to see. Studies show that the gap between men’s and women’s salaries narrowed as they gained negotiating experience, and that women in particular achieved more favorable economic outcomes the more time they spent bargaining. It’s a matter of having training and experience negotiating, which can only be gained through the act of it.


Why Salary Transparency Is So Important

When it comes to abolishing an outdated system, beyond we the people, change needs to also happen on a judicial level. Since 2021, different cities and states have been enacting pay transparency laws that protect employees and demand companies to share the salary range for a job during the hiring process. As California becomes the largest state to require salary information in job listings by law, it’s inevitable that this change will soon be seen on a country-wide scale.

Economists say that mandating salary transparency could help close wage gaps across gender, racial, and LGBTQ identities. In regards to women in the workforce, the secrecy surrounding salaries can make it especially difficult for us to know when we’re being underpaid relative to our male colleagues.


How To Negotiate A Job Offer

Still scared to speak up? You’re certainly not alone, but you deserve your own advocacy. From requesting period time off to earning more base pay, here are some strategies and guidelines on how to negotiate salary and demand your rightful worth:

Make sure it doesn’t have a set pay rate

Jobs within the realm of retail, customer service, low-level hospitality, government or civil service, as well as hourly, entry-level, or union positions tend to offer set pay rates. While these aren’t typically negotiable, there’s solace in knowing there won’t be gender discrimination to confront, since everyone is paid the same.

Know what you want

It’s important to enter any negotiation already knowing how much you want or expect to earn. If the initial offer is way far off, it’s important to either rethink your expectations or accept that this probably isn’t the job for you.

Don’t say yes right away

There’s no need to immediately accept or counter an offer. Even if you’re not immediately sure whether or not you’re receiving a good offer, it’s best to request some time for consideration and collect as much data as you can on the company.

Take time reviewing the offer

Taking your time, evaluate your offer and compare it to the job you have now, the future prospects at your current employer, and how the benefits, perks, retirement plan, or any other extras sweeten the deal before you start negotiating.

Get on the hiring manager’s side

The hiring manager plays a pretty crucial role in advocating for you to HR, so if they’re particularly keen on hiring you, it can help out in the long run. Saying something along the lines of, “I would be thrilled with the position, but is there any leeway in the compensation package?” can plant an inquiring seed without directly making a pitch.

Practice your pitch

When asking for more money, it’s important to present an adequate amount of data that supports why you’re worthy of earning that money. This should include not only your credentials, but a reiteration of your ability to help the company advance. During this pitch, avoid phrases like “I need more money” or “I can’t afford my expenses” to support your case— they may hurt rather than help. Instead, swap them out for phrases like “The salary range for my position in this market is $X–$Y” or “I’m able to solve X problems, and people who can do that are worth $Y in the market.”

Don’t be afraid to say no

If the counteroffer is good or good enough, accept it and bask in your girl boss glory. However, if an employer is refusing to meet your needs, don’t be afraid to walk away from what does not serve you. Though scarcity mindset is a very real thing, there’s a vast job market with positions that can meet your needs. Remember: you deserve what you’re worth.

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