Negotiate Your Salary Like a Bad*ss Broad

Amy Blackwell | Guest Contributor | @EqualityGrrl

As a seasoned pay negotiation workshop facilitator, I don’t want bad*ass broads like yourselves missing money from your pockets. True, the gender pay gap is not solely attributable to poor negotiation skills (discrimination playing a huge role, even more so for women of color, with other factors at play, too). But lack of negotiation is a huge stumbling block contributing to women’s lag in earnings. The good news: You can readily overcome this knowledge gap so that you won’t be leaving $500K to $2 million on the table throughout your working lifetime.

A FEW TIPS FROM AN OLD PRO

1. It’s not just about salary, so do all of your homework! There are many internet-based compensation calculators, one of which is salary.com. Did you know this website aggregates going rates for salary and benefits as reported by employers, specific to region and job title? Play around with this impressive tool to get a feel for it. Enter your city and job title, make sure the job description that pops up actually matches the work you do (and search for a closer description match if it doesn’t), then click the Free Salary Data button. Voilà! A bell curve graph pops up.

Note that the 50% median is the applicable salary for someone who meets the job description exactly. Are you more qualified or experienced? Set your target salary above median. Aim high but be realistic, broads! Then click the Benefits tab above the salary bell curve. Holy smokes! There’s a pie chart with all due benefits and a full listing including monetary values. Don’t stop with your salary.com search, however. Your professional society may have a compensation calculator, and you should ask others working in your region and your field what kind of benefits they get.

2. It’s not a benefit if it doesn’t benefit your dependents or you. An example: Already have a low-premium disability insurance policy through your professional society? Then you don’t need the one offered by your employer at a higher premium. In this scenario, you can ask your employer to add the monetary value of the disability benefit to your salary, or negotiate for another un-offered benefit that lends value to your life. Need a public transportation pass? Higher educational assistance? Internet for business use at home? Conference fee coverage? Travel opportunities? How about a non-monetary benefit like a job title bump? Or more frequent salary reviews? Get creative with monetary, near-monetary, and non-monetary possibilities.

4. Think of negotiation as a rational conversation between two people striving for a mutual win-win. Rely on the objective data you generated in your salary-and-benefits homework. Keep calm and be polite, no matter what. If you are negotiating for a new job, do your best not to answer questions regarding your salary history and salary expectations. Deflect by stating something like, “I’d like to know if I’m truly a good fit for this job before we start talking salary. Let’s talk a bit more about our mutual job duty expectations first.” Get the potential employer to name a salary figure first, then keep the back-and-forth going to move that salary offer up, even if the initial offer exceeds your target salary. Remember: You have past losses to make up for!

Negotiating a raise or promotion? Don’t wait until your next salary or performance review. Do your salary-and-benefits homework, then ask for an appointment with your supervisor to talk about career development right after you’ve achieved a major accomplishment (landing a big account, saving the company a lot of money, etc.); you’ve won an award or received some other kind of non-raise, non-promotion acknowledgment of your excellence; or your duties have grown beyond the scope of your job description.

Well before you go into the meeting, write down and practice out loud your 1-3 minute pitch clearly stating to your supervisor how valuable you are, giving specific examples, and the going rate is for someone of your caliber. Unlike in a new job negotiation, you’ll actually put the salary numbers out there first—not your employer. Make your pitch, then sit back and shut up. It’ll be an awkward silence, but don’t try to fill it with verbal diarrhea. Let the supervisor speak next and listen carefully to what he or she says. Negotiate from there. When you think all is said and done, never complete a new job or raise/promotion discussion without negotiating your benefits!  Get all agreements in writing and read them carefully. Don’t sign on the dotted line until all clauses match the negotiated terms.

Learn the skills to pay the bills. Attend a salary negotiation workshop. Photo cred: AAUW. 

Learn the skills to pay the bills. Attend a salary negotiation workshop. Photo cred: AAUW. 

4. Knowledge is power! If you are still feeling overly anxious (a flurry of stomach butterflies is to be expected in negotiations, no matter how experienced one is), attend a negotiation workshop or read books on negotiation. Nothing beats informal or formal training to prepare you for various scenarios and to help you strategize accordingly. Heads up: AAUW offers compensation negotiation workshops for college women and those women already on a career path. Independent study more your thing? Here are a few books to explore:

To learn more about the Pay Gap, visit AAUW and check out their 2017 report. 

To learn more about the Pay Gap, visit AAUW and check out their 2017 report. 

Now that you understand pay negotiation is not just about salary and have a few old-pro tips under your belt, remember most women and people of color don’t have strong compensation negotiation skills. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Once a bastion of the old boys’ network, negotiation know-how is now within our collective reach. Self-educate through reading or negotiation workshops, then share those skills with people in your life from underrepresented groups. You’ll be glad you did, bad*ss broads!


Amy Blackwell, BS MA, is chief marketing officer of Monument Pharmacy, Inc., and owns Blackwell Communications LLC, a STEM communications and leadership coaching company. President of AAUW Colorado--which advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research--Amy has been a certified compensation negotiation workshop facilitator since 2009. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN