Here is a step-by-step guide on how to negotiate your salary. As a woman of color, you must take concrete steps to bridge the racial wealth gap, and that starts with becoming a negotiation expert. These 8 tips will serve you well!
Only 12% of women negotiate their salaries, as researched by Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda Babcock, co-author of Women Don’t Ask. And if you try to disaggregate the data into racial and ethnic lines, the stats become even lower depending on which group you’re looking at. For example, Jacqueline Twillie, a negotiation and equal pay consultant, says:
“Cultural expressions of women of color in regards to tone inflection can sometimes be perceived as aggressiveness.”
Any instances in our workplace where we’ve been made to feel as aggressive stick with us and knock down the confidence needed to negotiate. Even more, as women we are severely under-represented in executive positions and STEM fields. And as women of color, it’s even worse. This lack of representation in the workplace, combined with the pressure to fit into “corporate” settings, can make it hard to negotiate our salaries.
But it’s important to understand the costs of not negotiating, both during the initial hiring process and at re-negotiation after some time with your company. It can cost you as much as $1.5 million over your professional life, says Babcock. Meanwhile, 52% of men are negotiating their salary.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to negotiate your salary. As a woman of color, we must take concrete steps to bridge the racial wealth gap, and that starts with becoming a negotiation expert. These 8 tips will serve you well!
1. Make a list of your marketable skills
Look at your resume and CV as if it is not your own. Women of color are often better at seeing the value in others and negotiating for others than they are at representing their own interests and worth. So take out your CV, imagine it is not your own, and start writing down technical skills, industry-knowledge skills, and soft-skills. With as many of these skills as possible, jot down how you have shown each of these with any projects and their measurables. Show, rather than tell.
2. Highlight the skills that benefit your company
After you’ve made your list, pull out your employment contract, revisit your company’s goals, and pull out any upcoming projects they have coming up. From your skills-list, highlight the ones that are directly beneficial and relevant to the overall work and success of the company, especially any future planned projects. This is so that you reframe the conversation and talk about how you bring value your potential future or current employer. If you enter the conversation with a mutual-benefits mindset, you give your employer less room to disagree, because a negotiation is now framed as an investment on their end.
3. Research and prepare
Before you negotiate your salary, research if your asks match the industry standard for your position. Use salary data from salary.com, payscale.com, Payscale, and Glassdoor to set an accurate baseline when the time comes. Make sure you research the market rate, which is the wage level for someone at your experience level in your geographic area. In addition to researching industry norms online, you may consider talking to others in the field to better understand value drivers, challenges, and precedent. Do you possess a skill that others in your industry typically don’t? For example, maybe you possess all the baseline skills for a job as a Program Manager at a community development non-profit. Having something extra like data science or analytics, however, is an asset that is above your pay-grade. By doing this basic investigative work up front, you ground your argument in solid facts and data, not just a vague sense that you deserve or need better pay.
4. Have reasonable expectations
This does NOT mean that you should lower your expectations. But be honest with your CV analysis and industry research. Combine this research with performance expectations and document past achievements. When previous targets are clear and you have tracked your accomplishments, it is much easier to make an argument for a raise. Again, you want your arguments backed by data and results. If you can’t provide data, work on changing that! Set KPIs (key performance indicators) and start measuring your projects.
5. Practice your delivery
Have you heard the phrase, “Carry yourself with the confidence of a white man”? You probably know what I’m talking about. Cool, calm, collected, strong voice and eye contact. Start by recording yourself. Invest an hour of your time into staging and taping a salary negotiation with a friend. The recording can teach you a lot about certain habits that may unfairly be costing you significant money. Remember, we are not viewed the same way as white men and women. Unfortunately, that means we sometimes have to be extra cautious by how we carry ourselves. In your recording, keep an eye out for these things:
- Sentences ending in an upturned tone, as if you are asking questions rather than making affirmative statements
- Overusing “I think” or “maybe.” This can make you come across as unsure, but you need to show that you are confident and firm in your beliefs and plans
- Discounting your value. If an employer commends you for a project, don’t say “oh, it was easy,” “it was no big deal.” This gives them permission to do the same to you.
6. Use silence as a strategic tool
Silence is uncomfortable for many of us, so when we experience it we tend to rush in to fill the silence with comments that could be meaningless. As a result, most people will talk themselves into a corner and say things that weaken their position. Everything you say when you negotiate your salary needs to have substance and value, and you need to allow your employer to room to think and process as well.
Stereotypically, a good negotiator is someone who is loud and boisterous. In reality, you don’t have to dominate the conversation to be effective. Listening allows you to really hear what the other party wants, which puts you in a position to find a resolution that works for both sides.
8. Start small
By this I mean, negotiations with a store after a lost receipt, your cable and phone company, your car insurance, etc. Practice your asks, voice, tone, and ability to listen here, before you jump into negotiations with an employer over thousands of dollars. You will be thankful! And hopefully save a bit of money with those mini-negotiations that are successful.
There are different styles of negotiating. Harvard Law School has an entire program on negotiation, where they offer FREE resources. Check out some of the different negotiation styles they describe here. Some of these styles are more effective than others. Here are some sentence starters/frames to help get you started with planning out your own strategy of negotiation:
- “I am excited by the opportunity to work together.”
- “Based on my research…”
- “If you can do that, I’m on board.”
Negotiation skills are developed, and we cannot develop them if we don’t practice. If we don’t advocate for ourselves and our worth, then who will? We are in a unique time where the world is finally looking to people of color, especially our often-overlooked Black sisters. Capitalize on this moment and let it fuel you with confidence and assertiveness. Let’s boost the 12% of women that negotiate!
And if your negotiation process is not successful you have a few options: take the feedback and make some changes, or leave the company if you genuinely believe your worth is not valued. We need to normalize saying no, even when it comes to jobs. Women of color have often been raised to be grateful for anything, but it’s time we honor our worth and negotiate your salary!