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Closing the Wage Gap: Salary Negotiation Tips for Women

Tips for women on how to negotiate salary
Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock

Much of the U.S. has banned or is planning to ban employers from seeking a candidate's pay history. Depending on the location, this applies to public and/or private employers, and is an effort to eradicate the gender wage gap.

"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 [passing of these laws] is an important step to closing the wage gap between men and women of equal talents and abilities."

Though closing the gap through legislation is the first step, women have the power to demand change in their pay. However, according to career experts, women are less likely to negotiate a job offer than men. In fact, according to a new study by Mulberrys on salary negotiation, one in three women have never asked for a raise, compared to one in five men.

"Many women are scared to negotiate because they're afraid of being considered too pushy," said Augustine. "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."

Augustine said 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.

Regardless of gender, here are six tips to help you negotiate the compensation package you deserve:

If someone asks you about your previous salary in a state or city where it is illegal, politely tell them so, and shift the conversation to your salary expectations.

"You can be nice about it," said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. "Don't get defensive, but you can state something along the lines of, 'It's my understanding that, according to New York City law, that's not allowed, and it's new, so many people may not know about it.' You're simply stating facts. Then quickly [transition] into what you can talk about – what you want to earn."

If you're going to negotiate confidently, you need to be prepared. Mulberrys' survey found that 47 percent of female workers conduct industry research for an average salary.

Study the market rate for your position by visiting Glassdoor, Salary.com and PayScale, accounting for the company's location, size and industry, Augustine said.

"You should … do research to assess what your expectations are so you don't undercut yourself," added Salemi. "Ask for more when they present you with the first offer, and ... hold your ground in terms of what you're worth."

It's important to have prepared statements ready so you aren't caught off guard when salary is brought up. According to the Mulberrys, 50 percent of women rehearse a pitch before delivering it. Focus on your salary expectation and include specific examples as to why you deserve what you are asking for, said Salemi.

Mulberrys also found that 56 percent of women compile their achievements before negotiating their salary.

What do you bring to the table? Make a list of your major contributions and accomplishments, quantifying them whenever possible, Augustine said. How have you cut costs, increased revenue, streamlined efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, etc.?

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 on negotiating until you can pull it together, Augustine said.

Confidence is essential to when negotiating. You must exude self-assurance, even if you're insecure or uncertain. Women often apologize when they've done nothing wrong, which may be viewed as being weak or lacking conviction. Don't let yourself fall into that trap, Augustine said. 

"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."

Additional reporting by Saige Driver and Shannon Gausepohl. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business News Daily and Business.com staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.