The Working Woman: How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

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Photo courtesy of Kheel Center at Cornell

Did you know that a gender gap still exists in regards to salary?

According to the National Women’s Law Center, over a lifetime of working, women make approximately $400,000 less than their male counterparts who are employed in the same field with equal credentials. To catch up, women would apparently have to delay retirement for an additional 12 years, working well into their so-called ‘golden years.’

It sounds a lot worse than it really is, though.

After reading several articles in popular media regarding the gender pay gap, I set out to do some research on the topic. I discovered that there is a ton of media hype surrounding this issue, most often led by feminist and political groups attempting to make their voice heard or secure more female voters.

Digging a little deeper, I found out that, while a discrepancy does exist, it actually has little to do with discrimination. Many reports suggest that what women expect, want, and demand out of their professional lives often differs from the goals of their male peers.

Women are four times less likely than men to initiate a conversation with their superior(s) about a pay raise.  In fact, women also don’t fare well when it comes to negotiating their starting salaries during interviews, which sets the pace for their future income. They dominate when it comes to negotiating for someone else, like perhaps the company they work for. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t put themselves high enough on their own priority lists, and also have cited “fears of asking for too much and being denied” as major deterrents when it comes to asking for more money.

If you’re a working woman, or if you’ve got a close friend or family member who is, beat the odds and get that raise:

  • Do your research – Know ahead of time what your magic number is, and bring solid evidence that will show your boss that you’re being paid less than you deserve. Get a really firm grip on what your market value is before your one-on-one with the head honcho.
  • Create a collaborative vibe – Start the negotiation meeting off by saying that you understand that money might be tight at the moment. Approach the situation with a positive attitude - be upbeat and friendly. Avoid playing the victim card.
  • Inquire about your job performance – Ask your boss how pleased he or she is with your work. From there, see if they are aware of your market value. Keep the talk focused on the job – not on you personally.
  • Think small – You know how we feel about tiny steps in the right direction here at TinyShift! Be prepared to accept incremental boosts in pay rather than a gigantic raise all at once. Even if you’re getting paid less than someone else in your department, catching up in salary can take time.
  • Have options - If the negotiation seems to be headed south, let your superiors know that Company SB has offered you a position at the salary you desire. If you’re an excellent and important employee, you’ll be hard to replace, and a good boss will recognize it.
  • Be good at what you do – Going into your boss’s office and asking for a higher salary certainly means you know you’re really good at your job. Right?  If you’re slacking, or even just giving “average” effort – instead of getting a raise, you might end up getting fired.

Lastly, in today’s challenging economic times, be sure to approach any discussion about a raise with caution, and use your best judgment regarding when to make your request. Be sure that your boss is in a really good mood and has recently experienced some kind of “win.” Be mindful of the fact that you have a job, keeping in mind that many Americans are struggling to even get hired, let alone make more money. That being said, it is possible to negotiate for a better paycheck as long as your approach is cautious, positive, and reasonable.

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