Most professionals have been asked what their current salary is during a job interview. This question allows companies to base your new salary offer on your company's identification of your worth, rather than what you're actually worth.
For women — who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are paid an average of 79 cents for every dollar that men earn — the salary question also makes it easier for employers to perpetuate the gender pay gap.
Massachusetts is taking a step toward combating that practice. This month, Massachusetts became the first state to bar employers from asking about applicants' salaries before offering them a job, the New York Times reported. The new law, which goes into effect in July 2018, will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant's worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.
"Professionals should be paid based upon their skills, experience and the value they bring to a position, not by their negotiation skills or salary history," said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume. "The recent law that Massachusetts passed is an important step to closing the wage gap between men and women of equal talents and abilities."
Women and the wage gap
According to Augustine, women are less likely to negotiate a job offer, setting themselves up to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers.
From the time women are young, they're programmed to think and act a certain way, Augustine said. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, "Lean In," she discusses how it starts as early as the playground. The little boys are considered "leaders," while the little girls who act the same are labeled "bossy."
"Many women are scared to negotiate because they’re afraid of being considered too pushy," Augustine said. "There is a fear that if they demand more money, the job offer will be revoked. They’re overly concerned about being polite, often to the detriment of their paychecks."
In addition, women often feel they need to prove their value before they can ask for more money. Men, on the other hand, often enter these conversations expecting to ask for, and receive, a better job offer.
"The fact of the matter is, if you don't ask for what you want, you won't get it," Augustine said. "You have to negotiate."
She offered four tips to help you negotiate the compensation package you deserve:
Do your homework. If you're going to negotiate confidently, you need to be prepared. Research the market rate for your position by visiting Glassdoor.com, Salary.com and PayScale.com, taking into account the company's location, size and industry.
Focus on your current and future value. What do you bring to the table? Make a list of your major contributions and accomplishments, quantifying them whenever possible. How have you (or will you be able to) cut costs, increase revenue, streamline efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, etc.?
Remember, it's not personal. Negotiation isn't about one person winning and the other losing. It's about each party giving a little to keep or get what they want most. Leave emotions at the door. If you feel your emotions rising, hold off negotiating until you can pull it together.
Fake it till you make it. Confidence is essential to being a strong negotiator. You must exude self-assurance, even if you insecure or uncertain. Don't apologize for negotiating — own it. All too often, women apologize when they've done nothing wrong and, as a result, are viewed by men as being weak or lacking conviction. Don't let yourself fall into that trap.
"Not every great employee is a great negotiator," Augustine told Business News Daily. "If [you don't] possess stellar negotiation skills, there's no reason why you should tolerate earning less money than an equally qualified candidate who does."