Equal Pay Day in the United States fell on April 4, 2017. That date indicates how far into this year women had to work to earn what men earned in 2016. It’s even longer for women of color and women with disabilities.
The gender pay gap, as it’s known, is the disparity between what women and men make for doing the same jobs. The current estimate of the disparity hovers around 80 cents (women) to the dollar (men).
This means that a 20-year-old female entering the workforce full time will lose $418,800 over a 40-year career compared to a male worker, and she will have to stay in the workforce 10 years longer than a man in order to earn the same amount.
So what can you do about it?
- Do your homework. Find out how your salary compares to that of your peers, both male and female, not just in your company but across your industry. This preparation is key to making your case for a raise.
- Detail all of your accomplishments and contributions to your workplace. Write down every single thing you do that is above and beyond your current job description. Be exhaustive. Get testimonials from colleagues, even if you feel awkward asking. Tie all of the work you’ve done to results for the company’s bottom line.
- Find out which protections or resources exist. For example, New York City just banned interviewers from asking about salary history; women coming for an interview will likely have made less money at a previous position.
- Practice negotiating in your everyday life to become comfortable with it. Ask for your latté on the house, your credit card’s annual fee to be waived, or a voucher for future travel from an airline that didn’t meet your needs.
- Role-play with a friend as your boss. Practice both the delivery and your poker face. You need to be confident and firm while not appearing rude or unyielding. Make statements and don’t turn them into questions by succumbing to vocal fry (letting your voice go up at the end). Most importantly, remove your personal feelings from the whole process. Think of it as though you were selling a vacuum: You believe in the product (your work), you believe it’s worth this price (your raise), and your goal is to get your potential sale (your boss) to see it as worth that same price by rooting your pitch in what your work can do for him or her.
Now it’s time to make the big ask! Schedule a meeting with your manager—or maybe you have a performance or annual review coming up. Lay out your case, and ask for a raise based on your worth.
Ideally, let your manager propose the first concrete number. Have your dream number in mind, as well as the one you can comfortably live with and feel valued by. Counter with your dream number, and then WAIT. Silence is powerful and uncomfortable. Resist the urge to fill it.
If your manager returns with a number you are not comfortable with, stand your ground. You are not asking for a favor; you are valuing yourself and your work, and increasing your loyalty and productivity to a company that is willing to recognize you for it. No matter what the manager offers, even if it’s what you want or higher, keep your poker face straight. Say you would like some time to think it over and will get back to him/her once you’ve considered it.
If your company absolutely cannot or will not budge on money, you can ask for other perks. You can negotiate for more vacation time, a flexible schedule or location, a new title, a leadership coach, increased benefits, childcare options and plenty more. Remember that it costs the company so much more money to recruit, hire and train a new employee and get that employee comfortable with the culture and other intangibles than to give you what you are asking for.
Women are more likely to be granted a raise if they express their request in language that focuses on the company’s overall success, and show that they care about fostering positive relationships at work. By standing firm and demanding what you are worth, you are helping close the gender pay gap for yourself and all women.