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Women ask for raises but don’t get them. Thoughts?

Came across this article: Women do ask for raises, they just don’t get them.

I’d like your thoughts on this.

I myself am in a high-stress position in that I ask and negotiate every single dang contract. And I am pretty good at it, if I say so myself.

I don’t let a single one go without trying to squeeze even an extra $5/hour out of them if I am able to (especially if I have the upper hand in spades), because $5/hour means $10K a year.

The article mentions that women in general, don’t work in very negotiation-friendly industries (minimum wage jobs, jobs with set salaries/tiers), but it says for the women who work in the same industries as men who have negotiation as a normal part of life, they still don’t get what they ask for.

Are women just not being taken seriously?

I could definitely see this happening.

A man says he wants more money, the company gets scared he might leave.

A woman says the same thing, but with a pre-conceived bias that she is ‘softer’ and less likely to leave (this is NOT TRUE by the way), the company thinks – Meh. She’s all talk. She won’t really go.

This I can totally see as being an issue. Just because you’re a woman, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a backbone of steel, and you can have one, but you need to damn well follow through.

If you say things like – I am going to leave one day, just watch me! …. but are still there 5 years later, they know you’re just a blowhard. You say things but you don’t mean it. You won’t actually leave for whatever variety of reasons such as:

  • you’re a single mother and they’re taking advantage of the fact that you need this job and cannot have a pause in income (true story, I know someone who is in this position)
  • people in general complain a lot but never do anything about it (e.g. leave and actually quit – I also know many people in this position)
  • they think or KNOW you cannot get a better job with these benefits anywhere else and therefore have you in golden handcuffs (know lots of people in this position)

… etc

So when you say something, you better follow through. You can’t be crying wolf and blowing hot air.

FOLLOW THROUGH to show you are SERIOUS. Just like with a child, when you tell them “No”, be prepared to carry them kicking, screaming, losing their #$*@ out of the store without any groceries or whatever your cart is filled with.

If you have another job offer, be prepared to quit and take it, instead of just accepting the life at the company as your comfortable, cosy, norm.

Until you leave, you may not realize how much better it is outside of the zoo (your current workplace), or how much better it was to be IN the zoo than outside of it in the forest, foraging with the other wildebeests (e.g. you come back to the company but at a higher pay).

Some observations from my own experiences:

So let’s say they’re working in my industry, where negotiation is pretty much a way of life, especially as a contractor.

Maybe I’m just a special snowflake, but in my area, I am getting as much if not more than my male counterparts and I KNOW I am getting as much or more than my counterparts (male and female) for 2 reasons:

  1. My partner is a tall, white (privileged LOL) male with a decade more of experience than I, and even he makes the same rate as I do.
  2. I ask around / eavesdrop and get benchmarks from others.

I wonder if the reason why I do well in negotiations and getting what I want is mostly that..

I don’t need the money desperately

When your bills have to get paid, you have debts crawling up around the corner ready to bite you in your ass, you have a lot you have to consider if you’re going to just walk away from a contract.

As a result, I have an excellent poker face, and solid savings to back it. I save $100K – $200K before ending each contract because I never know when I am going to get my next one.

Or if I am going to quit the one I am on.

For every month I do work, I plow that equal amount of what I earned from savings into the stock market, thereby keeping my emergency fund high for any eventualities, and saving a bundle.

If you do have lots of bills, then you’re willing to go for much less than what you’re worth.

I am also MORE than willing to walk away from a contract and have told recruiters:

I’d rather sit at home eating bonbons watching Jerry Springer than go for that rate.

(Note: Both lies. I like money a lot, but not only do I not eat bonbons, I don’t have TV and therefore have no access to Mr. Springer, and if I did, I wouldn’t watch his show… if it is still around.)

Even if they come back to me and say that it is a no go (hasn’t happened yet :-P), that’s the worst that could happen?

I pretend to mull it over and then accept at the lower rate? I’d lose ‘face’ but you never know.

OR, I could just walk away (have done this only once and they learned their lesson GOOD.)

Learn how to leverage your upper hand advantage

The best is when I know when I have an upper hand – there aren’t many people (I can only think of one other) who do what I do and excel in my specialty, so when I have the advantage, you can bet I am going to milk it.

I am not going to get down on my knees and thank them for the job at such an amazing pay. Yeah, the pay is good, but can I get more?

It helps to have a greedy mindset. I know this is not very conventional to say, but for some of us who are rather shy about it all – GREED IS GOOD.

Lastly, I know there is always $5/hour or $10K lying around on the table especially at my income range. $10K is ‘peanuts’ to these companies if they’re already in the 6-figure salaries, but if you’re at a minimum wage job earning $20K a year, $10K is a no-go.

I’d say any salary above $50K, always has about $2K – $30K lying around depending on the industry, the rarity of your skills, and how much they need you.

The way I see it – in my salary range, who is going to say no to a contract for $5/hour?

In my line of work, rarely anyone, especially not a recruiter who is making at least $40K – $60K off you, just by invoicing the client every month. JUST INVOICING. There’s a cash cow business if I ever saw one…

LESS words has MORE of an impact

Stop throwing extra words in there. Craft your speech down to the bare essentials. Too many words drains a person’s brain and dilutes your message.

Maybe women do ask, but they aren’t as forceful / clear because we weren’t taught this skill. Boys are taught to assert themselves. Girls are not. That’s just the way it was when I grew up and likely the same for you.

For instance – did your mother try to teach you more of the caregiving, thoughtful aspect of being a girl? My mom did.

She begged me to learn how to cook so I could care for my family, etc etc. She never even thought to ask or tell my brothers that.

Why do you think that is? It is because she never saw them in that light, as martyrs who had to self-sacrifice for the family, the way she did her entire life for us.

Luckily, I did not have such a gentle spirit (unluckily for my parents), and sort of have always gone with what I’ve wanted to do. My parents had a hell of a time raising me always asking me to less ‘loud’ and less ‘fierce’, by the way, but they are happy I am so independent and strong now.

Back to negotiations: There is a way of asking for a raise that has a greater impact.

In addition to not being taken seriously, maybe we aren’t being serious about it because we were never taught how to assert ourselves.

You know how there is a wishy-washy “oh I am just feeling the waters” way of asking, and another more forceful one with conviction?

I wonder which one they’re using in negotiations. I have no idea because I’m always forceful, but I’ve come to realize a lot of women doubt themselves (I get so many emails and DMs on this it isn’t funny and I try my best to shift their mindset.)

If you go into a negotiation and say things like:

So.. umm.. I hope I am not bothering you but….. I was wondering if I could talk about my salary. I feel like I deserve a raise because, well I did X.. and Y, and Z.

I mean I worked really hard on those projects, and they did a lot for the company and I want some more money.

Versus something more concrete and clear with numbers and facts that their manager can be hit over the head with, and take to THEIR manager who will likely then review all of the raises and decide who deserves what.

You need to give them something to go to bat with for you.

Something like this is much stronger and carries great conviction:

Thanks for taking the time. Let’s talk about my salary.

I have been tracking what I have done since my last review, and I have done X, Y, and Z.

Those three accomplishments/projects have brought X amount of money to the company and raised efficiency by Y percentage.

In addition, I have benchmarked my salary and accomplishments against the industry, and I would like _______as a raise.

How it works:

You set the tone – Time to talk money, my good person.

Use punctuation like periods, and bring your voice inflection DOWN to the end of the sentence/thought so you don’t sound confused or timid.

(I know, I know, please don’t all up in my grill in the comments about female vocal fry and being proto-masculine about speech patterns and supporting the patriarchy by doing so. I’m trying to get you more money here so you can speak however you want.)

You tell them what you have been up to since your last review.

You list your accomplishments.

You proceed to then lay out how those accomplishments brought benefits to the company with numbers (“I increased efficiency by doing reports in an hour instead of 20 hours which equals out to about $200/hour in saved company costs or $3800 every quarter.“).

Then you drive it home with — AND I am also not getting paid what I am meant to be paid.

Then sit back, and wait for an answer. If it isn’t satisfactory (as in you have been brushed off in one, then two reviews), as one manager has said – if you keep going to the well and the well is dry, it is time to find another well.

Quit with the female-oriented office busywork as well

And no, organizing things like company lunches, company goodbyes, charity drives, potluck lunches, team breakfasts, and all this thankless female-driven & female-laden office busy work DOES NOT COUNT towards your salary and bonus as an employee so you can stop all that #$*@! because the company doesn’t appreciate it money-wise.

So you can say “No” if someone asks you to keep an Excel sheet of names and amounts donated, or ask your manager very politely: Sure, and if I spend time doing this, what task should I put on hold?

Value your time. Give that to someone more junior, or an intern whose time is valued to the company, at a lower rate than yours.

You’ll just end up organizing and doing that job AND your own. Who wants to take on more work for no real recognition or pay? Not I, said the pig.

Don’t mess with that crap if you can. I know you’re doing it to be nice and helpful, but it makes you look like a doormat, I am sorry to say.

You can do things like I did, like buy boxes of candy or chocolate, or bring things for the office to share, but don’t BAKE anything, don’t ORGANIZE anything and don’t ever VOLUNTEER for these things. Keep your hand down, mouth zipped and wait.

If the manager wants it badly enough, they’ll do it themselves.

Also, stop washing other peoples’ dishes at the office. I know that pigs leave dishes in the sink.

Resist the urge to wash them. They need to realize elves don’t come along and do it overnight, and if you do it, you’ll just let them continue being disgusting pigs.

Remind yourself:

My time is valuable.

Stop undermining your time and yourself.

Timing is also key in asking for money

Be sure to ask before the company budgets are set for the quarter/year.. however your company works.

(It helps to make friends in Human Resources by the way.)

Once they have a pot of money and are distributing it amongst people, if you show up after this budget happens, you won’t get your raise.

Even if your review is AFTER the budget, try and corner your manager (“Could we meet for 10-15 minutes, briefly?“) to talk about your performance, and to put yourself in the forefront of their mind. Your name should float up when their manager asks: So who do you think we should reward this year?

Make sure you stake out your piece of that salary pie (mmmmm… delicious), and make sure you say it with strength and numbers.



  • Noob

    I work in a hospital so unfortunately, salaries are determined by HR, so there is no chance of negotiation. With my previous employer, I successfully negotiated a big raise after my coworker left on short notice. However, the next year, he “made up” for it by offering me a smaller raise, which I accepted because he had hired extra employees and he would not be screwed without me.

  • SP

    When women ask, using the same tactics men use, they still don’t statistically get the same results. It isn’t that these tips aren’t good tips to follow, but it isn’t going to result in equal pay. There are structural biases. The good news is that a person can do their best to be an outlier or minimize any differences, and in some workplaces, you might achieve equity. So, the advice is helpful, but I want to point out that the inequity isn’t because we are doing it wrong.

    That said, I found your advice on language to be exaggerated to the point of being almost patronizing: “So.. umm.. I hope I am not bothering you but….. I was wondering if I could talk about my salary. I feel like I deserve a raise because, well I did X.. and Y, and Z. I mean I worked really hard on those projects, and they did a lot for the company and I want some more money.” REALLY? The vast majority of professional women I know would never approach a conversation like that, and the main reason women in general are paid less than men isn’t because we are incompetent negotiators.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      True – We aren’t doing it wrong, we just aren’t getting the results. If the well is dry, go somewhere else to get water.

      So I am not being patronizing – that is a real conversation.

      It is what someone said to me as a practice when I said – tell me how you would negotiate or start off your talk with your manager. She said those words, I wrote them down for this post. Maybe you and your cohorts wouldn’t say that, but younger women who haven’t been taught to speak, not pause often, and be clearer/more direct, kind of beat around the bush.

      • SP

        This may be more of an “inexperienced person” thing, than a women thing. Though young men are not generally socialized to use that sort of language. It is great she had you to practice with, so you could coach her into saying something more compelling!

        Still, there are two prongs to pay inequality. There is the part that we are able to influence, which you focus on here. But there are still systemic issues, which we can’t easily affect, at least not on a broad scale (i.e. we can perhaps solve it for an individual woman, but not for all women). This is beyond the scope of your post, but should be acknowledged. That’s my take on it.

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          You’re totally right. I should corner a young guy and ask him to explain to me how he’d ask for a raise so we can have a comparison.

          I really just wanted to help her, so I told her to pause, take breaths between each thought and PRACTICE. The more you practice it, the more it is memorized, the more you FEEL it, the more you want it, and then it comes out so confident and strong, you really gain momentum with your words.

          Yes — the systemic part makes my eyes roll. I know for instance, some companies have been reported to avoid taking resumes from female-sounding names in my field because they don’t want to work with women. The pre-filter, already ruins any chance of a candidate even making it through just because of gender. Then, even if she gets in, she may be penalized – for being a mother, a young woman who MIGHT be a mother (loathe people who judge/resent women for this – how/where the hell do they think they were born?)… etc.

      • Stephanie

        I believe that even if a women doesn’t use precisely those words the tone is saying exactly the same thing.

        My current job is in retail, a primarily female field, and I am constantly coaching staff to NOT sound apologetic all the time as it will get them a no from a customer almost every time. Our one male staff member never sounds apologetic when talking to customers. Women tend to have a very apologetic tone to their voice, I struggle with this regularly myself and, although better than a few years ago, still have a ways to go.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    *laughing* So, my mom asked me if I could tone down my RBF when I was a KID. Not because she was being mean but because I looked like I was ready to fight AT ALL TIMES.

    Taking a little of her advice and learning to control my face a little more gave me a slightly more neutral face which I am guessing works well for negotiating.

    I use that face professionally a LOT and I show my bosses every single day that I’m not soft so I don’t have to bluff when it comes time to talk money. They know I’m always serious and they darn sure know I’m valuable and how hard their lives would be without me. I’m not irreplaceable, I’m just really really tough to replace and that’s kind of perfect.

    Unlike you, my negotiations have historically been because I really needed the raise and for them to cave but in general I think it’s worked to give me a harder edge rather than making me seem willing to take less.

    Of course I don’t always get what I want. I’ve hit some crappy negotiation points but over time I’ve done better for myself than if I hadn’t pushed so hard.

    I’m strategizing my next negotiation now 😉

  • Princess Lambchop

    Unfortunately there is a bias that hurts women who ask for raises no matter how perfectly they frame it. Women who ask for raises are seen as pushy and men are seen as knowing their worth. We need to fight this by demanding our worth anyway and changing what people think is “normal,” but some of this is out of women’s control.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      All true – but taking into account I think, what other people think of whether or not you’re being pushy, is irrelevant. If my choice is to be seen as a pushy b*tch who gets a raise, or someone who doesn’t want to rock the boat and stays at her current salary, I’ll take pushy b*tch.

      Also, if the company won’t give you a raise, go somewhere else. My point is to not accept it. Move, leave, and they’ll learn their lesson. Or maybe they won’t, but you’ll be in a better place where you are valued for your contributions.

      I had a friend who worked in a company where she wasn’t valued. Undermined by scheming folks, and it was so frustrating that she ended up quitting with a little push, and is now in a bigger role, with more money, in a better company and respected.

      She wanted to stay. She wanted to negotiate, fight it out, try and make it better… but I told her to quit. They weren’t seeing her value.

  • Jodie Bierbrauer

    Great advice! What I have told my kids is that they are selling themselves when they ask for a raise. They need to do their homework and tell their employer why they are worth more. Other people will not notice what you get done, it’s up to you to track your accomplishments and point them out.

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