Take Control: How to Negotiate Your Salary


New research released this week by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that just one year out of college, women working full time already earned less than their male colleagues, even when they worked in the same field. And the pay gap widens 10 years after graduation, according to the findings.

Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood and other factors known to affect earnings, the report, titled "Behind the Pay Gap," indicates that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex discrimination. To read the full report, visit the American Association of University Women online.

We know that a wage gap may be traced in part to the negotiation process, which is something that each of us has the ability to control.

Men are more than four times more likely than women to negotiate a salary, which typically translates to more money in their pockets. An employer may offer the same starting salary to both a man and a woman for the same position, but more times than not, the man will negotiate and the woman won't.

No employer has an obligation to whisper in the woman's ear, "Hey, you know, you just lost out on more money because you didn't speak up." If she accepts the salary offered, so be it. But the consequences of failing to negotiate a first salary can lead women to lose more than $500,000 by age 60.

It's up to each woman -- no matter what her career stage, industry or position -- to speak up and negotiate for herself.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you're making the most of the negotiation process:

Commit to negotiating. Whether by nature or nurture, we're somehow conditioned to believe that nice girls don't talk about money. The reality is that smart girls do. So the first step is saying to yourself, "I will have a voice in the process. I will not be silent with regard to my compensation."

Beyond that, tell yourself that you'll do all the homework necessary to get comfortable with negotiating. However, recognize that some people will never be completely comfortable with this topic. So even in the absence of total comfort, commit to speaking up even if you're shy because frankly you work too hard not to speak up.

Research salary data. Use online tools (salary.com and payscale.com are two resources), as well as salary data compiled by industry-specific associations, career services and alumni relations, to get a sense of what a position should pay based on industry, geography, size of company, level of experience and education.

You can also ask the hiring manager where the offer you receive falls in relation to the pay range for the same or similar positions within the company. Sometimes this information won't be provided. Avoid getting defensive if they say it's confidential.

Talk to peers in the same industry to find out what they say is the going rate, but do so with a grain of salt. Sometimes even our pals overstate what they earn, so use that information sparingly.

All of this salary information arms you with the knowledge you need to have an intelligent conversation. You can't ask for more money if you don't even know what the position should pay relative to your experience.

Remove the emotion. Women often shy away from negotiating because we don't want someone to dislike us. We worry that our future employer will think, "Oh, she hasn't even started yet, and she's already demanding things."

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