It’s 2017, and women in the job market still make 20% less than men in most industries. (And, according to recent research, black women make even less—60 cents to the dollar.) Though the solutions start with managers and CEOs taking action to level the playing field, there are ways you can take back your power, and the key is in your salary negotiation mojo.
Sherry Sims, an experienced corporate recruitment professional who has worked to review and hire candidates for jobs at top companies including CVS and AT&T, knows the inside scoop on what to do when it’s time to negotiate.
“It’s best to talk salary and benefits when the employer extends an offer,” Sims says. “The more you speak up, the more confident you’ll become with negotiating.”
Read below as Sims, also the founder and CEO of the Black Career Women’s Network, shares three creative and smart ways to close the pay gap, one woman at a time:
Start with the right questions.
When a prospective employer starts talking benefits, speak up, or forever hold your peace. “Ask them, ‘Do you have an incentive compensation plan? If so, what is the criteria?’” Sims advises. “Inquire about their tuition reimbursement or an allocated budget for professional development programs. Ask about perks that promote work-life balance such as flex vacation or working from home. These are all valid questions and equal more dollars in your pocket as well as chances to avoid being overworked or getting burned out.”
If a promotion or raise is what you desire, be prepared with real “receipts.”
Sims advises gathering your documentation or notes of achievement for what you have accomplished or implemented. “How have you saved the company money, increased profits, or boosted the client base? Explain how you’ve added value within the last year. Share client testimonies,” she says. “You can start the conversation with, ‘Here are the reports to show [that] within the last 12 months I’ve been able to…’ and go from there. Your strategy should be to show what you’ve done and also, how to continue to keep adding value, saving money, and being profitable—your strongest skill sets.” Don’t be shy about this. Trust, the men in your office aren’t.
Also, use smart nuances when broaching the conversation. You can be bold and authoritative without being combative or seeming entitled.
Arm yourself against a case of low-balling.
“Here’s a corporate recruiter secret: They will start with the low or midpoint salary range, so if you reject the offer there is room to negotiate,” Sims says. “I know, because I was a corporate recruiter for over a decade.”
Sims advises women to conduct market research and gain knowledge of your professional value so you can ask for what you want. Base this on factors such as the average pay for that position in your location, your educational and training background, your work experience and your network. “It’s all about career empowerment, so why not start with getting paid what you are worth?”