Career Advice, Salaries

17 Real Women Share How They #AskForMore

In an interview on “60 Minutes,” Sheryl Sandberg discussed her personal experience negotiating salary when Mark Zuckerberg offered her a job as the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. Sandberg recalls how she almost accepted the first offer — a mistake she says many women — until her husband and brother-in-law stepped in.

“I’m like, ‘Well it’s a generous offer and I really want this job,’” recalls Sandberg. “And finally with Dave there, my brother-in-law looked at me and goes, “You know, goddammit Sheryl, don’t make less than any man would make doing this job. There is no man taking this job who would take the first offer.”

In a culture where the adjusted U.S. gender pay gap averages about 5.4 percent, or 94.6 cents per dollar earned by men, it’s important now, more than ever, to empower all women to seek equal pay and #AskForMore.

Whether you’re already in the process of negotiating your salary, are optioning a job offer, or just found out your worth is not equal to your current pay, take it from these real women who have gone through the negotiating process to learn how you too can earn higher salary.

“I just negotiated my salary to start a new job and it was nerve racking! I knew I was asking for a fair market value for my skills, but everyone I know and everything I read told me not to accept the first offer. I was really nervous and felt a bit selfish and unworthy to ask for more than the original offer, but with some courage and some pushing from a great mentor, I asked anyway. The most amazing thing happened–they offered me slightly more than I had asked for. It was my first real salary negotiation and I think having one successful negotiation under my belt will make me much more confident to negotiate in the future.” – Melissa S., IT professional

“When you go into the negotiation you need to present a respectful but confident manner. This is a business transaction and you there to conduct your end of it, so don’t feel embarrassed for asking for more money or apologize that you’re doing so. It’s important to remember that the hiring manager has done this before and likely does so on a regular basis, so this won’t be their first time interacting with a candidate who is asking for a higher salary.”  – Amanda L, project manager

“I was underpaid at a previous job, though I negotiated a 12.5% increase over their first offer. When negotiating for my current job, I focused on the value I could add and pushed salary discussions to after I knew more about the company and role. Then, when asked what I was making at my previous role, I instead mentioned my qualifications and stated what I was worth. This was based on research into what salaries the job title and actual responsibilities fetched nationally and in my area.

There was a back and forth where the manager stated the market value of the role was lower than what I asked. However, after discussing with my references and doing further research, I was offered a preliminary salary and increased salary after 3 months. Both of these were more than I initially asked for.” –Anon, implementation consultant

“I told my manager the amount I believed I deserved and detailed how the work I have been doing was at a higher level than my current position. Also I ASKED–that’s the hardest part. Having confidence in yourself and work your work product is essential.” –Breely Ungar, associate consultant

“Research the typical pay for the role, factor in your years, how good a fit you are, your cache…. and ask!” –Barb M., CEO

“I’d advise women to research the role and tasks to see what salaries are in range, consider their education & background, push past the urge that you’re asking for “too much” and lastly, connect with a mentor or friend who can advise you. Don’t be afraid to ask!” – Molly, marketing manager

“I came from a highly selective coding boot camp, Ada. I used their graduate salary data as leverage (median, average), as well as my degree in another branch of engineering. A degree in anything other than CS can be used as it shows that you’re not the cookie cutter type and will add to the diversity of the team. I also had an offer from my internship company that came in handy.” – Lara C., SDE

“You can negotiate on much more than just salary, so don’t get too fixated on the number. Try negotiating for more PTO, a better start date, a schedule that works for you, or other benefits that will make your work-life balance better. Aim to negotiate in more than one category of compensation. If you try to negotiate and the company is unwilling to, consider any of your ask and walk away. An inability to negotiate, compromise, or work through conflict is a huge red flag and shows you what kind of working relationship you can expect as an employee.” – Liz Rush, software engineer

Know what you’re worth, know where your value to the company lies, and highlight how you’re unique within your particular skill set. When negotiating, know what salary you absolutely can’t go below, and start your ask high. If you know how your company values you and how they need you, you should have no reason to fear of asking for the amount that you’re worth.” – Alexa B., analyst

“I negotiated my offer at my current role, and it was my first software engineer role ever. You do not have to base your negotiations off of past pay. Having another offer on the table helps, as does an actual willingness to walk away if you do not get what you want. You should absolutely ask for more, but if you are given what you ask for and then come back wanting more, that’s not going to start your relationship with the company off well, even if they do accept your new desires.

The best way to go about it is to get your initial offer, thank whomever, let them know you need your time to go over it, and set a meeting in the next couple days. Go over everything and decide exactly where you’d like them to improve. The key is to know exactly what you want to ask for. Don’t go into a meeting unsure or just wanting a vague “more”. Put a new number on the table for base pay, ask for X more shares, for Y more days of vacation time, whatever it is. Even if you are stoked on the offer and will probably accept it as it is, the worst that can happen if you ask for something more is that they say no. Plus, if a company rescinds an offer because you asked for something more, there are likely deeper problems with them, and you dodged a bullet. Moreover, common sense comes into play here. Unless you have extraordinary circumstances, it is unreasonable to ask for a 50% increase in the base pay. But 10% more? Do it. You aren’t going to get another chance to up these numbers until you switch jobs or get a promotion. You may get some more here and there in an annual comp review, but this is your moment; grab it.” – Riley, software engineer

“The biggest assumption people, and women, in particular, make is that your manager will notice how much you do for the company. Whether they’re the best bosses ever or not, they’ve got a lot on their mind. In many cases, the reason why you were hired is to be the expert in a certain area so that they don’t have to use as much headspace tackling the issues you do. Always document what you’re working on, how it impacted the bottom line, and regularly do recaps with your manager about what you’ve done. The last part can be difficult for some people, so try and figure out what’s comfortable for you. Some folks are great at the “water cooler” chat and can work milestones into casual conversations, others prefer one-on-ones with their bosses.” –Trish Fontanilla, Head of Community & Customer Experience

“I always dread the salary negotiation part of a job offer!  I dread it so much that my first couple jobs I didn’t negotiate at all.  It’s really uncomfortable for me to push for more than was offered – it makes me feel greedy and gross.  But I also understand that strategically it’s something that I absolutely should do.  Those 15 minutes of my life are potentially worth thousands and thousands of dollars – the most lucrative 15-minute opportunity I’ll ever have.  For me, being prepared and well rehearsed is super important, and really paid off in my most recent negotiation.  I started by reading articles on the Internet and talking to friends for advice about how to do a salary negotiation.  I was looking to get oriented and [to look] for patterns.  What’s normally said and done in a negotiation?  Which of those tactics resonate most with me?  What’s my target for the whole package (salary, benefits, vacation time, etc.), what’s “industry standard”, and what’s the minimum I’d be willing to accept?

Then I found a close friend who’s experienced in negotiating.  I talked with him for a while about strategies, and I vented about how much I hate negotiating.  I just want to be hired for a fair wage and then get on with the doing-good-work part of the job!  Venting was important for me because it cleared my mind to focus on the task at hand.  And then, we roll played salary negotiations, debriefing afterward.  Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.  I hated this part, but it was crucial. I still felt squirmy and greedy and awkward while talking with the recruiter, but I’d practiced enough that I wasn’t completely shut down by those emotions.  And in the end, it was definitely worth it.” – Margo, software test engineer

“I would advise women to make lists detailing their skill sets. Not only does this help you to lay out your strongest attributes, but it’s also a helpful reminder to yourself of what you’re good at, which can help to boost your confidence before going into a salary negotiation. Moreover, it’s always a good idea to ask your co-workers, previous managers or employers and any friends or family members to help you come up with items to add to the list, especially from co-workers to help you lay out your best contributions to group projects or tasks. When you are setting out to apply for a new job, ask for a promotion or raise, it can be helpful to have those other perspectives in mind so you can better lay out why you are a strong candidate and should be paid appropriately for the skills you will be bringing to your new team.” –Melanie B., designer

“I’ve always worked in social services and education. Both women dominated fields, with lower paying wages. I’ve never once had an issue advocating for a student or fellow social worker to negotiate their salary. I’ve actually done a lot of coaching on how to do this in a way that is non-threatening and professional. However, I’ve never been able to do this for myself until four years into my career. It wasn’t until I was experiencing the cost of living in Seattle that I started thinking I should be taking my own advice. In a field that is dedicated to public service and not making millions of dollars, it can be hard to advocate for what you really need to cover your living expenses.

A recent job offer tried to offer me almost $5,000 less than I was making at my current job. When they asked if that salary would work for me, I kindly stated, “Currently I’m making _____ a year and with the current cost of living in Seattle, my education, and previous work experience I would really like to stay within that range.” The recruiter was way more understanding than I ever expected and stated, “Oh that is totally fair, let me check in with the department and see what I can do for you!” A couple hours later I got an offer that exceeded my current salary, plus way better benefits. You really don’t know until you ask how simple it can be. The worst thing they can say is “No.” However, if you’ve already been offered the job, chances are you’re the #1 pick and they are willing to work with your needs as much as possible!” –Katelyn H., student services manager

“I have sought salary increases by researching industry salary data from my field in education at private liberal arts institutions in urban areas. I have presented this data in person to my supervisor(s), along with a written summary of the kind of work I perform, demonstrating that it is usually work assigned to positions at a higher salary grade, either at my own and/or other institutions. I have consulted many job descriptions and studied the kind of language used to describe high-level tasks; I have used those specific words to describe my own tasks and approach to demonstrate that I am operating at levels higher than my current pay grade. I also try to establish trust with colleagues to whom I report, and with those who report to me, so that conversations around pay are as pain-free as possible.” –S.H., civic engagement director

“I went too low, because every time I go higher in negotiations they go with someone else. All of the Executive Assistants in my last firm (Entertainment Litigation) were women. There was not one female attorney in the entire firm.” – Sarah Brendecke, independent contractor for entertainment

“As someone that teaches negotiation and consults on productive communications, I negotiate for contracts and new work all the time.  My three steps are always the same: 1) prepare 2) engage and 3) frame.  Preparation is critical – knowing what your value is, what you’re hoping to get, what’s possible and what your walk-away point is (that’s arguably the most important piece).  Engaging involves making a connection – creating a framework for mutual gains so that you’re understanding to meet their interests and they are meeting yours.  And framing is giving them the reason to deviate upwards from what they would offer others – what do you bring to this position that others don’t?  

My advice for women is not to “negotiate like men” as negotiating in a way that’s not comfortable to us can actually get us worse outcomes.  Rather, I would encourage women to take risks (like men) and ask for what they want without constantly feeling that they’re undeserving or will be looked at negatively.  You can’t get what you don’t ask for and if you’re future employer isn’t going to give you a salary that makes you feel fairly valued for your contribution, you should consider whether that’s a place where you can feel comfortable doing your best work.” – Israela Brill-Cass, Founder and CFO, Fixerrr

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