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How women can negotiate their way to higher pay

Kaitlin Madden, CareerBuilder Writer

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Nearly 50 years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed, women still earn just 77 cents for each dollar than men earn. While many theories exist as to why this is, one hypothesis is that women are just not as likely to stand up for themselves and what they deserve in the workplace.

In fact, according to a 2008 study by Carnegie Mellon University, men ask for raises 85 percent more often than women do; and when told to choose a metaphor that best described their feelings toward negotiating, men chose "winning a ballgame," while women chose "going to the dentist."

So what makes women so hesitant to negotiate for what they want?

Much of it has to do with fear, says Becky Sheetz-Runkle, author of "Sun Tzu for Women: The Art of War for Winning in Business."

"Women are far more inclined than men to worry about the impact that asking for more money and advancement will have on their relationships," she says. "We don't want to damage our professional relationships, and we don't want people to think we're too aggressive, too greedy, too ... you name it. Because of this, we don't ask for the raise or the promotion, or we ask indirectly."

Many times, Sheetz-Runkle says, women will also simply work harder, hoping that eventually, someone will notice and reward them for their effort. But this strategy is also flawed. "It's not just about working hard," she says. "Researchers and experts who've studied wage disparity have found that women often believe that if we work hard enough, everything will fall into place. After all, that's only fair, right? Maybe, but it doesn't necessarily work that way. We have to be direct and ask for what we want, not compensate in other ways."

The bottom line is that in order to get the pay and recognition they deserve, women must ask for it. Here, Sheetz-Runkle and other experts offer advice on how women can negotiate the salary they deserve.

Get background information

Before you go to your boss and make your case, spend a few weeks gathering background information on salary trends in your field.

Start off by researching the average compensation for others in your occupational function and geographic area to help you determine an appropriate salary range for your job. Sites like BLS.gov and CBSalary.com are good places to start. To delve further, "consult your trade association or a human resources association (like SHRM.org)," suggests Linda Swindling, a leadership consultant, former employment lawyer and author of the book "Get What You Want: Harness the Power of Positive Influence." "Just make sure that the data you receive is accurate for the geographic area you are in."

Build your case

Even if your research shows that you are grossly underpaid, asking your boss for a raise based on fairness alone might not be enough to get you one. It's important to support your request with information that proves you deserve it. Plus, building your case will make you more confident going into the meeting and will prevent you from second-guessing yourself, because you'll have evidence to back up your merit.

To prepare yourself for the negotiation, jot down your major accomplishments from the past year, ways you've saved/earned the company money, any emails or notes of praise you've received for your work, etc. Your argument will be much more convincing with proof of the value you bring to the company.

To make an even stronger case for yourself, create a list of goals, too. "Show what you've done in the past and what your plans are to add value to the company in the next 90 days or year," Swindling says.

Change your perception on negotiations

"By its nature, negotiation is confrontational, but it doesn't have to be hostile," Sheetz-Runkle says.

Instead of seeing a negotiation as an event where one person wins and the other loses, look at it as a conversation in which both parties are hoping to walk away having gained something. You want a raise, and your employer wants a satisfied employee, so the situation can have a positive outcome for both parties.

Practice beforehand

Practicing what you're going to say out loud beforehand -- just like you would for any other presentation -- will help you to feel more confident going in, and will also help you work out any kinks in your argument.

Once you have your presentation down, though, stick to those points, advises Alexia Vernon, a career coach and author of the book "Awaken your CAREERpreneur." "Rehearse your points. And just as importantly, rehearse staying quiet after you deliver your information. By talking too much we can actually undermine our credibility by projecting nervousness and insecurity," she says.

Learn for next time

Though it's never too late to try and course correct an unfair salary, the easiest time to negotiate money is before you even accept a job offer. If you plan on making a job change in the future, remember to push back if you get a lowball salary offer, and don't be afraid to throw out a high number.

"While women negotiate less frequently than men, when asked for our salary requirements we often give a number lower than our male counterparts, which can be just as damaging as not asking in the first place," Vernon says. Ask for what you're worth -- it may seem intimidating in the short term, but in the long run you'll be glad you did.

Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.




Last Updated: 10/05/2011 - 5:20 PM


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