Asking for What You Deserve: A Raise

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Two years ago, the CEO of a major corporation created a firestorm when he said that women don’t need to ask for a raise and should trust that the system will compensate them appropriately in the end. He said women should trust “karma” instead of asking for pay raises.

Needless to say, he apologized the next day and said he was “completely wrong.” He went on to say, “Our industry must close the gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” He told his staff they should just ask if they think they deserve a raise.

But is it that easy?
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg discusses the issue of a gender pay gap in her book, Lean In, where she points out that women who ask for a higher salary are typically viewed as more demanding than men who do the same things.

So apparently, it isn’t an easy task for some women to simply “ask for a raise.”

There is a glaring wage gap between men and women doing the same job, and women are confused about how to get even. It’s a serious issue that has gained public notice, causing companies such as Google to publicize the gender balance of its workforce and vow to improve. Other large tech companies have followed suit. Even Harvard Business School admitted the school has not been considerate of women, and publicized their efforts to improve in a front page New York Times article some time ago.

It’s clearly a business problem and change is obviously needed to improve the wage gap, but in the meantime, what is the best strategy for a woman to ask for a raise?

Experts believe the first step should be getting into the right mindset. Instead of worrying you will be punished because of your gender or thought of as selfish or greedy, keep in mind that your boss is expecting you to ask for a raise or negotiate for a higher salary at some point. You are a value to the company; therefore, you are worth it.

Talk up your accomplishments; if you finish a big project or close a deal, consider that as a good time for a salary discussion with your boss. Timing is important, too. If you built up brownie points for your boss after successfully landing a new client, that may be the best time to ask for a raise.

Cultivating relationships within your company and industry go a long way. Studies show that women typically form relationships that are less “up” than “across or down.” In other words, they are friendlier with the assistants than with upper management. It is wise to note that some women in management may be harder to befriend because they feel as if younger women should pay their dues as they had to do on their way up the ladder. Still, don’t discount the importance of this step.

Be aware of your company’s goals and gather information before your pitch. Find out a fair salary for someone at your level. Knowledge is power in this situation. Use Google; ask around. Find out what the men in your position make.
Keep in mind there is more to compensation than pure money. Be ready if you hear “no” to a salary bump. What about vacation time, flex time, cell phone or computer, expense account or a company car? If you aren’t ready with those suggestions, you could miss out. If you are shot down, don’t let that be the end of the conversation. Ask how you can achieve a raise and at what point.

Of course, sticking to this advice will not guarantee you a raise. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that being a perfect employee is going to get you fair compensation. The most important point is to keep trying for wage equality.

In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, the authors show that women negotiate 30 percent less often than men, and when they do, they ask for up to $16,000 less.

Help may be on the way from the government in the near future. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first law President Obama signed as president in 2009. And the state of California is now enforcing its own Fair Pay Act that allows for the conversation about salary to be open and fluid by female workers among their counterparts without employer retaliation.

Women must continue to build confidence about their abilities and value. Experience, education and job performance are all necessary to the future of any company’s success, whether you are a man or a woman. So, until the wage gap is abolished, you just have to keep plugging. ■

Sources:,,, and the experience of the author.