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A Woman's Guide to Salary Negotiations

by Laura Hatton

Salary negotiations are difficult for anyone, but for women they can be particularly challenging. Statistics Canada indicates that women’s salaries are 26% lower than men’s salaries and many experts cite women’s unwillingness to negotiate as one of the primary reasons.

But women may have good reason to be reluctant to negotiate starting salaries or raises as studies have indicated that people may perceive them as being aggressive or not a team player. A study conducted by Bowles, Babcock and Lai, discovered that women’s attempts at salary negotiations can backfire as evaluators found that women who initiated negotiations were penalized for their initiative more than men. This could mean losing out on a much needed raise or even seeing a job offer rescinded.
So how can you reduce the risks?

  1. Choose the right time. Wait until the job interview is over and they are ready to make you an offer before you negotiate. If you are currently working and asking for a raise, request a meeting with your supervisor so you have time to explain why you are asking for a raise.
  2. Know the pay range for your position. Job posting websites can help you determine average wages for positions like yours. This allows you to calculate how much you can reasonably ask for and gives you evidence to back up your request.
  3. Know how much you are worth. Have you brought in a big client, are you the fastest person on your line, or do you have a skill that few other workers possess? Be prepared to present your employer or potential employer with firm examples of the value you bring to your workplace and how that translates into money for your company.
  4. Know how much the company can afford. A small or start-up company cannot afford to pay the salaries that larger, well-established businesses can. Likewise, if your current company is in bankruptcy protection or recently lost a big client, they probably can’t afford to give you a raise right now.
  5. Express enthusiasm for the job. Make sure your interviewer or employer is aware of your enthusiasm for the job and that you are committed to staying with the company for the long term so they see the value in investing in you.
  6. Practice. Be sure to practice in front of a mirror or better yet with a friend who can give you honest feedback.

You have every right to ask for the salary you deserve. And it is important that you are prepared to clearly and confidently explain why your request is a reasonable one. With the right approach, you can reduce the risks and reap the benefits of negotiating for a higher salary.