These days, we hear time and again that women don’t make as much as men and that we need to negotiate more (if you think you might fit into this category, read this). It’s true— women are statistically much less likely to ask for more money or even broach the subject of negotiation with a prospective employer. In my own experience in the workplace, I’ve felt that speaking up about my compensation package or asking for a raise would either get me into trouble or offend higher-ups (which were usually men). How ridiculous is that?
It could be that women, much more so than men, are taught to take things as they come, to not ask questions. To not question authority. Some may argue that men are just more confident in professional settings—and why wouldn’t they be? Historically, men have more commonly managed women, sometimes using their positions of power to sexually harass or belittle their female subordinates. Men have had so much less to lose by displaying confidence.
Women have finally been getting more recognition in the workplace over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. Starting with salary negotiation is a huge step for any professional woman. But now is the time to take this idea a step further with perks like benefits, which should be worth around 30 percent of your compensation.
Types of benefits
Benefits at work vary, but may include:
- Health insurance
- Paid time off
- 401(k) contributions
- Pension contributions
- Company credit cards
- Maternity leave
- Tuition reimbursement
- Gym memberships
- Work-from-home days
- Travel benefits
- Commuter benefits
- Discounts on outside purchases
- Flexible spending accounts
- Other savings accounts
When job searching and considering new offers, start by assessing the benefits you have with your current employer. How many paid days off do you get? Does the company you’re interviewing with offer at least as many as you have now? Will this company also match the monthly contribution you’re saving for retirement? Will they pay for you to take a class?
When to negotiate benefits
The rule should always be that your next position is an upgrade, even if that doesn’t mean you make more money or get more vacation days. However, even if you are switching from a huge corporation drone job to a non-profit job that will bring you joy every day, you’ll be surprised how often these organizations will be willing to stretch certain benefits if you ask and if they really want to hire you. And why would you want to work anywhere that didn’t?
Discussing benefits early on in the interview process will give you a sense of what the company will offer, and you can begin to make decisions about what is most important to negotiate. Especially if you are happy with the offered salary, negotiating benefits is a great way to show them that you still recognize your own worth.
When I was offered my last full-time job, I told the company that I was planning to take a writing class in a few months and asked if they would pay for it. Even though it wasn’t technically related to my new job duties, they agreed to do it because they wanted me to accept the offer. Use that leverage during the offer stage, and you’ll be surprised the benefits you’ll be able to negotiate.
Are there risks of negotiating?
In the majority of cases, the worst answer you will receive is no. And if they’re not willing to negotiate, you need to consider whether or not you can work with people who won’t budge, as this may affect your future raises or promotions. Also keep in mind that recruiters often offer a lower salary or fewer benefits than they can actually afford, for the simple reason that they are anticipating the candidate negotiating. So when you don’t, you’re basically leaving money on the table that they have already factored in when preparing an offer.
You may come across companies that will actually rescind an offer if you try to negotiate. It sounds crazy, but this happened to me when I tried to negotiate an hourly wage for a lower-level job. The person in charge was offended that I asked and said it wasn’t going to be a good fit after all. Just because I asked and make a great case for my worth.
The reason you shouldn’t be worried about this happening is that this is NOT a company you want to work with. Run far, far away from a place that is so out of tune that it can’t even handle you asking. At that point, you’ll have dodged a bullet and shouldn’t regret a thing.
Don’t settle for less than you’re worth
Chances are, if you are brave enough to ask for more, you’ll end up with a set of benefits that you’re comfortable with. Because they are benefits, after all; you should be getting the most out of them in return for the hard work you put in for an organization. Remember that even if you’re taking a salary cut to have your dream job, helping people at a non-profit, publishing books, or teaching, there are other ways to make up for that lack in salary—start with benefits.
Before accepting an offer, make a list of what is most important to you, in order, and make sure that your new position will offer you everything you need to succeed in your job and your life outside of work. Part of moving up in the workforce is finding your perfect work-life balance. Now is the time for women to stop being afraid to ask fight for their worth, even if it’s just a parking space.
This article is the first entry in a two-part series on negotiating benefits. Now that you know why you should be negotating for them, stay tuned for part two explaining just how to do that!
By Meredith Boe