7 salary negotiation tips from women who've been there

Posted at 2:14 PM, Oct 26, 2017

Women are underpaid. As of 2015, women working full time earned 80% of what men working full time did, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So it should be no surprise that research has shown women receive less money from Social Security upon retirement and take longer to pay off their student loans.

So how can you make up that ground? Negotiating your salary is a start. Use these tips from other professional women next time you get a job offer, and you’ll do your part to eliminate the wage gap.

1. Recognize that negotiating is an asset

Many hiring managers are prepared to give you $10,000 to $15,000 more than they offer — but they won’t do it unless you ask, says Kate Gremillion, a career consultant and CEO of Mavenly + Co., an Atlanta-based company that provides professional development resources for women.

Negotiating can even help you as you’re getting started in a career. More than three-quarters of employers said recent graduates appeared more confident when they asked for more money, according to a 2015 NerdWallet survey.

Flexing negotiation muscle can also demonstrate your effectiveness as an employee. One 2013 Harvard Kennedy School study found women experienced better salary negotiation outcomes when they said, “I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important I bring to the job.”

2. Research using industry contacts

You probably know you should research your market value — the salary you can expect based on your experience, education level, industry and location — before negotiations. But don’t just use online resources like Glassdoor and PayScale, Gremillion says.

You’ll get more reliable information from industry contacts, ideally a mix of men and women. You don’t have to ask what your contacts earn, just a reasonable base salary given your level of experience. Ask your college’s career services department to put you in touch with alumni, or search LinkedIn for current or potential connections.

3. Don’t rush to say a number

Many experts suggest talking numbers only after the hiring manager offers you a salary. That way, you don’t ask for less than he or she was prepared to offer.

But if you’re asked for your desired salary on a job application or during the interview process, hopefully your contacts have given you a good idea of the base salary you could expect. Consider adding 10% to 15% to that number, Gremillion says. The hiring manager will probably go lower than that, and you’ll meet in the middle.

4. Tie your contributions to business strategy

Make the case for a higher salary by explaining how your contributions will increase the company’s profits and how you’ve helped previous employers. If your role doesn’t directly affect the bottom line, show your worth using another meaningful metric.

One of Gremillion’s clients, a nurse, negotiated more money by pointing out the number of patients she could triage and care for in a crisis situation, and the high patient satisfaction scores she received.

5. Consider creative ways to increase pay

Asking for more money might feel fruitless if your employer has a strict budget or salary band — but don’t give up. Consider asking for performance-based compensation. That could mean signing a contract that says you’ll receive a salary bump if you meet certain metrics in a specific period of time.

This can also work once you’re in the door at the company and have shown what you can do, says Jennifer Dziura, founder of Get Bullish, a feminist career advice blog. After working at a New York test prep company for four years, Dziura negotiated to receive a share of revenue for a new GRE initiative in exchange for writing the curriculum and helping promote it. The agreement could be a win-win: You earn more, and the company reaps the benefits of your strong performance.

6. Ask for nonsalary benefits

You can also ask for perks other than pay, such as flexible work hours or professional development funding. Explain how these benefits will improve your productivity or expertise and ultimately benefit the company, Gremillion says. One way to phrase it: “I do my best work when I feel valued. Feeling valued would mean being given the flexibility and trust to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., when I am most productive. How can we create a situation that looks like this?”

Steer clear of asking for more vacation time, though. Hiring managers might not be psyched that you’re thinking about disconnecting from work at the offer stage.

7. Make it bigger than you

You should feel empowered to ask for more money because you deserve it. But if that’s a roadblock for you, think about how your decision affects others, says Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women advocate for themselves at work. Imagine a friend or family member who’d be proud to hear you stepped up. Consider how successfully negotiating can buoy the confidence of other women and help close the wage gap.

You can also pretend you’re negotiating on a friend’s behalf. Another Harvard Kennedy School study showed that women who did so asked for almost $7,000 more on average than if they negotiated for themselves. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with negotiating for yourself.

“One big hurdle for me was just realizing: I’m not greedy, I’m not super aggressive, I’m not ungrateful for this job,” says Kristin Wong, a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. “If I want to level the playing field, I have to do something about it.”

Brianna McGurran writes about student loans and millennial finance at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @briannamcscribe.

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by Forbes.