Nearly 50 percent of women have never negotiated their salary, and even if you're one of the women who has, you might not be fully aware of the impact pay can have on your happiness at work.
In 2019, Erin Miller, now the vice president of people and culture at Lulu Press, shared with me, an avid negotiator, what became a foundational piece of career advice: “You never want to go into a job on day one feeling like you’re not being paid what you’re worth. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for the company. In the long run, the company will get the best out of you and you will get the best from the company if expectations are equal, valued, and communicated in the first few conversations.”
Although I technically knew this from experience, I’d never stepped back to fully recognize the influence a good salary could have over my own job satisfaction—particularly whether accepting lower pay for a job I thought I might love would cause me to eventually resent an employer or role. Having a person make the connection for me so matter-of-factly was jarring and almost laughable. To quote a popular internet joke, I thought to myself, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions.”
That anecdote puts us all on the same page: that negotiating and accepting the salary you think you deserve affects your happiness at work in the long term, not to mention your happiness and security outside of work, too. When you accept lower, you accept all of the negativity that might come with that decision. The same is true when you don’t try to negotiate at all.
And in a world that isn’t transparent about pay or equitable when paying women in particular, that concession can be huge and possibly unknown to you, a truth that makes negotiation all the more challenging for women. With the gender pay gap alone, a woman stands to lose more than $400,000 over a 40-year career. Not only do you need to know your worth and be able to advocate for yourself, but you also need to make sure employers are prepared to give you their fairest offer. The same offer they would give a man.
To help you achieve more equitable compensation (and be happier at work, naturally), I asked six hiring managers and leaders at InHerSight’s partner companies to share their best advice for navigating salary conversations, asking about pay equity, and achieving fair pay in 2022. That includes talking about pay with an employer, advocating for yourself, and tips on understanding your worth. Maybe one of these will be an “Erin Miller moment” for you.
6 hiring managers share advice on negotiating and achieving fair pay
“With remote work being suddenly so popular, there are a lot of new theories about how to set equal base pay for a dispersed team. Familiarize yourself with these theories and the definitions being used (ie. cost of living v. cost of labor). When interviewing, ask the recruiter if the company has a compensation philosophy. If so, that can help you determine what might be a good starting point for negotiations.” —Lucy Winterhalder, Head of People, Givebutter
“When starting the conversation about equal pay, come from a place of curiosity to gain an understanding of what the company’s pay philosophy is, including how pay is determined and what salary information already exists. If this information doesn’t exist, ask what steps are being taken to make salary information more visible for the company. Expect candor and transparency in any salary conversation from an employer, whether you are a current employee or in an interview process.” —The team at Alley
“Go into every conversation knowing your number. For you, the purpose of the interview process is to ensure the company's budget fits your number/value. Accepting a lowball offer will always leave you behind the curve—even as you enter the job market again. Why? You psychologically don’t believe you’re valued at a higher rate.
Start with data. The feeling of ‘not being paid enough’ won’t spark action or lead to pay raise or equitable offer. Answer the following questions:
What is the market pay for your position? If you don’t know, leverage PayScale or Salary.com to get you started.
What is the organization's pay philosophy? Low, at, or above the market.
How does my organization view/value my role? As in, how critical is my role? Not every company values every role equally, which means they will set budgets accordingly.
What results have you accomplished lately? Translate those results into the numbers that matter for the organization (revenue, CAC, EPS, etc.).
Schedule a session with your human resources business partner. Use them as a trial run and ask for feedback on how you’re presenting your case. Ask them if your proposed increase/raise fits in the budget. Why or why not?” —Claudia Haworth, Senior Employee Experience Manager, Buzzer
“Pay equity questions are justified and employers should be prepared to answer transparently. If an employer shares your values, then these conversations will be expected and encouraged.
Companies should also be open to discussing equal pay if they haven’t achieved it yet. (It's an ongoing process, after all!) For employees, start the conversation with your manager, a mentor, or HR. As a job seeker, ask the recruiter or someone involved in the interview process.
As you go, try to understand the company’s compensation philosophy and how pay decisions are made. Do they analyze pay equity regularly? Work with outside vendors? If so, how often and what have the results been? These are great questions when discussing company culture, and responses can be revealing.” —Jeff Kaiser, Compensation Program Manager, Expel
“Conversations around pay equity are never easy, but the key to making them easier is coming prepared. Before any compensation conversation, be sure to not only do market research on your own role (know your worth!) but look into local pay equity laws that your employer may have to comply with. Start off by framing why you’re having this conversation, let them know you are interested in learning more about the policies or practices in place to ensure pay equity across the company. That should open the door to a freer flowing conversation surrounding policies they have in place…and if they don’t have policies in place, you can then follow up by asking how they determine the salary ranges for each role. These questions should give you valuable insight into how important pay equity is to your employer.” —Jacqueline Pham, People Strategy Manager, Avail
“Having productive conversations with their manager on a weekly or bi-weekly basis will ensure the manager understands their workload, how they’ve overcome challenges and ultimately why they deserve a raise. It’s important to speak with a tone of confidence, while staying grounded in impact– and ideally data that proves value. When asking for that raise, know your worth, be able to prove your worth and then take your shot. It’s also important to proactively build your bench of supporters. Having someone else to advocate on your behalf can go a long way in showcasing your value. Tap into your network of supporters as references, or if they’re comfortable, ask one or two to send an affirmative note to your manager showcasing your development and growth from their perspective.” —Tracy Stone, Director, Tech Women @ Intuit, Intuit