Three Strategies for Women Who Want Raises

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March 25, 2014; New York Times

Income inequality in the workforce is still a large issue for women. A GuideStar study in 2013 showed that although the number of women in executive and CEO roles is increasing, they are still receiving significantly less in compensation. Another report from the Association of Art Museum Directors in March revealed that women lead 42.6 percent of art museums in the U.S. and Canada but that they earn 79 cents on the dollar when compared to their male peers. The report also found there are proportionately fewer women in leadership at larger museums than at small to midsize institutions.

So if the women reading this article need more than self-interest to motivate them, those statistics should do it. Nothing will move without your moving it, and in the interests of gender pay equity, here are some tips from a recent New York Times article on how to ask for a raise—given that the context, according to the article, is something of a setup.

Quoting from the article: “When women act in ways that aren’t considered sufficiently feminine, and when women advocate for themselves, these experts say, some people find it unseemly, if on a subconscious level. As a result, women need to take a more calibrated approach, whether in asking for a higher salary or a new position. Otherwise, they can risk being perceived as overly demanding and unlikable, experts say, and their requests can backfire.”

Given that, try not to carry rage in your heart when you go to ask for a hike in pay and consider these tactics:

  • Get a mentor: The article states that experts say “Women…benefit when other people highlight their accomplishments with the higher-ups. […] That’s why it’s important for women to seek not only mentors, but also what some call sponsors, professionals who actively trumpet your work.”
  • Collecting Facts: Studies found females tend to not ask for raises when there isn’t a clear standard on how much to ask for, but this diminished when women were given statistics on what other employees make. There are several ways to gather data; looking to other organizations’ 990 forms on GuideStar to see if they list similar job position salaries could be insightful, or simply asking male colleagues and other employees in your network can be very informative. The next time a recruiter calls, utilize them to find out what you are worth in the job market. Bringing up outside offers can be seen as aggressive for females, but approaching the matter in a passive tone such as, “Hey, there is something I really want to talk about. I want to stay. Is there a way to make this happen for me?” could make an organization realize how much your value is and that they need to show it.
  • Communication and Language: The way you choose to present yourself and the language you use can make or break your chances at getting a bump either in compensation or responsibility or both. Choosing your moment relative to your performance is important. Use words like “we” and “us” instead of “I” and concentrate confidently on how this move will benefit the whole organization. And that case needs to be authentically felt and communicated. If you are uncomfortable with how to initiate or phrase the conversation, practice with a friend or colleague and ask for feedback on your delivery. Finally, and this should not need to be said, studies have shown that asking for promotions via email tends to backfire and come off as impersonal and cold. Professor Babcock, founder of Carnegie Mellon University’s gender equity program, said the data overwhelmingly shows that women aren’t portrayed positively when using the same assertive tones associated with male stereotypes. “The research could not be more clear in that we tolerate more aggressive or assertive behavior by men more than women.”

New York Times author Tara Siegel Bernard pointed out that gender and negotiation research is often used exclusively for asking for pay raises when this data could extend to other important career moves such as “including negotiating for a new position or job title.” Even if you are working at a nonprofit facing funding shortfalls, there are still approaches women can and should be taking to progress into leadership roles.—Aine Creedon