We’re told over and over again that women are too reticent, too lacking in confidence, too timid to ask for a raise.
But we are asking. And we have proof. We found four real women who negotiated for raises, and got them. These aren’t career coaches or hiring managers -- they’re just ambitious, conscientious women like we are, who made things happen for themselves.
Names have been changed to protect those who shared their successes -- and prevent them from encountering any awkward situations at work.
Remember, if they can do it, you can, too.
I was at my job in New York City for about a year when I figured it was time to prepare to negotiate a raise, so I started using sites like Salary.com to find what people of comparable experience and qualifications were earning. I quickly realized that I was making less than the industry norm.
I got along well with my colleagues, so I asked in the spirit of solidarity: “I’m looking into pursuing a raise, and it’s good for all of us to know what we’re worth.” They were happy to share, and I quickly realized that a male co-worker who had been hired after me with the exact same credentials (down to the same journalism school!) but less experience was making 15% more than I was! To add insult to injury, it’s not that he had negotiated from the outset and I hadn’t: Neither of us had negotiated our first offer.
I wanted to be upset, but I had to get strategic.
I started asking friends who were attorneys about my situation, and they pointed out that my employer was likely violating the Equal Pay Act; I was the only woman in my office. My boss at that time was new, so hadn’t hired me and wasn’t aware of the disparity. When I pointed it out to him (as advised by my lawyer friends), he brought it up to the CEO and I was granted a 15% raise immediately.
Medicine is different from other fields in that if you’re working in a private practice and making a salary, you can expect to have a conversation about becoming more of a partner around the five-year mark. Then, instead of getting a set salary, you share in the company’s profits with a proportional bonus each year.
In my practice of six doctors in Michigan, I’m both the only one who doesn’t have children and the only one who works full time. Consequently, I have ambitions to become a partner. After three years, I noticed how much more the owner of the practice did than his staff: He was dealing with angry parents, negotiating with health insurance companies, ordering vaccines, hiring new employees. Since I did want to become a partner one day, I started asking myself: What could I take on to get to there?
So I asked. I told him I was interested in learning more about how the business functions and how I could help, and asked how I could move up in the ranks. Not only was he appreciative that I noticed his work, but he told me I was the only one who had ever asked him how to transition to the business side of things.
He inquired how much I want to be making, ultimately, and we sat down and figured out how I would get there. We ironed out my responsibilities and pay raises for the next five years (it works out to 10-15% per year). By demonstrating my commitment to the practice and asking how I could grow with him, my boss was able to plan on my being around and reward me accordingly.
Being upfront with my dedication to his business made it easier for him to invest in me.
After graduating in a recession, I believed I would be lucky to have any job besides “unpaid intern.” So, when I got a paid internship, I worked my way into a staff position and then another -- and with that second promotion, I asked for more money.
My company is a non-profit, so we’re all working for the greater good. In this kind of environment, asking for money can seem greedy and crass. Add to that the fact that I’m one of the youngest people to hold my position, and I was understandably reluctant. Until now, I had always seen my salary as how much money I had, not how much I was worth. And since I could pay my bills, my rent and my student loans, it felt like I had enough.
But then the woman whose job I was taking over told me I should negotiate -- she was moving overseas, so I felt comfortable opening up to her about my salary, and she felt comfortable giving me an outside perspective on assets I didn’t realize were valuable: my experience in the field in college (I had been an editor at the college paper), my familiarity with the office culture, my willingness to work more hours and be connected 24/7.
After realizing how helpful it was hear an objective view of my value, I started gathering intel from people who were similarly non-competitive with me: I asked my former boss for his advice, and my friend who works in finance.
Between the two of them, I settled on asking for a 20% raise. Once I got past my worries about seeming presumptuous, the actual negotiation was easy. I brought notes into my meeting (on my friend’s recommendation) and went through the points about my worth. My boss took my suggested number back to the appropriate channels, and a week later, I had a new job and a higher salary.