Women in the workplace are still far behind men when it comes to pay equality. Negotiating is one tool women can use to close the gap, says Katie Donovan, a pay equity expert and founder of Equal Pay Negotiations, a consulting firm that works with businesses to achieve equal pay for their employees.
Women still only earn 80% of what men do, and according to The Institute for Women’s Policy, it will be 2059 before women and men will earn equal pay in the US. For minorities, it’s a more shocking timetable: 2119 for African American women, and 2224 for Hispanic women in the workforce.
That’s why negotiating is key, Donovan says. “Negotiation is the one thing we women can control, and it’s also expected: 84% of hiring managers expect negotiation.”
But men are four times more likely to ask for a raise during a negotiation. Donovan explains the fears holding women back and how to tackle them.
FEAR: Having your offer rescinded
While you may be afraid your job offer will be rescinded entirely if you negotiate and ask for more, Donovan says this is extremely rare.
“I am aware of three times that has happened and I know of thousands and thousands of negotiations,” she says. The reason this occurred was because of the “drip approach,” she says, which is when you keep adding to your list of demands throughout the negotiation, as opposed to asking for everything upfront.
“Just lay everything out and say, I would like this and this, instead of moving the goalposts,” she says. “They can look at all the pieces of the puzzle to find what works for both of you.”
FEAR: Not knowing when you should start the negotiation
Donovan says you should not negotiate your salary during the job interview, but wait until you’ve gotten the offer. This is the time when you have the upper hand.
“During the interview you have no power, but once you have the job offer and before you accept it is the time to negotiate,” she says. “That is the most powerful you’re ever going to be, so take a day or two to consider and negotiate.”
Donovan says it’s better for the employer to make its offer first. If they press you to give a number first, Donovan recommends a few key phrases.
“You can say, ‘can you tell me what you put as the budget for the job,’ and more often than not, they actually answer that question,” she says. “If they continue to push, you should say 50% more than you’re currently making.”
FEAR : Appearing greedy
If you think you asked for too much and are concerned you’ve come across as greedy, Donovan says you need to rethink the way you look at your job.
“The reason we work, although we pretend it’s not, is to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. Otherwise, it would be a hobby or volunteering,” she says. “For you to want to get paid appropriately for the job that you’re doing is not greedy—it’s reality.”
Donovan says a good job uses your talents, challenges you, and most importantly, pays appropriately. If any of those are missing, Donovan says it’s time to keep looking.
FEAR: Hearing ‘no’
If you’ve negotiated and your offer was turned down, Donovan says there are a few ways to proceed.
“The real power in the negotiation is that no one can force you to accept a bad offer,” she says. “If it’s a good offer but you didn’t get more, enjoy it. If it was a bad offer but you have to take it, continue your job search but have an exit strategy.”
Donovan suggests asking for a three or six-month review to revisit some of your asks, and continue your search to find a position that will better suit your needs.