Salary Negotiation for Women

By Angela Hayes, Associate Director of Alumni and Online Career Engagement

Wage discrimination has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act passed in 1963, but it still continues. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that, if we kept going at the rate we were going, the wage gap would close in 2059. But the World Economic Forum recently released a report saying that the pandemic has set women back so far that it’s likely to be 135 years before women will be paid the same as men for exactly the same work, and 268 years before women get the same pay for similar work as men (in other words in cases where there’s more wiggle room in setting salaries). The gap also falls across almost all occupations. Women’s full-time earnings are less than men’s in almost all of the top 20 most common occupations for women and all of the top 20 most common occupations for men. Lockdowns hit female-dominated sectors the hardest and left women doing more household chores and more homeschooling of their children. Even if they didn’t have to drop out of the workforce, and were working from home, this affected their productivity, chances for raises and likelihood of promotions. Research has also found that during and post-pandemic, woman are significantly less likely to be hired for leadership roles than they were about three years ago, just before the pandemic.

Equal Pay Day

In 2023, Equal Pay Day was on Mar. 14th. This date represents how far into the following year the average woman must work to make what the average man made the year prior. This date is based on the latest U.S. Census figures. That’s if we are averaging all women and men. In the past, this date and the amount on the dollar that women make compared to men was based on just full time, year-round workers. This year, a new methodology was used because Covid pushed many women, especially women of color, into part-time or seasonal work. In 2022, the Equal Pay Day coalition adopted a new, more inclusive methodology that also addresses women who work part-time or seasonally, to get a more accurate picture of how the gender pay gap impacts diverse communities. So women in general make 83 cents on the dollar that a man makes, but black women make 58 cents on the dollar so their equal pay day is Sept. 21st. Latina women make 49 cents on the dollar so their equal pay day is Dec. 8th . For Native American women it’s .50 on the dollar so their equal pay day is Nov. 30th. For LGTBQ and transgender women, it’s even worse across the board. And further education certainly increases wages for women, but women with graduate degrees earn less, on average, than men with bachelor’s degrees.

Why the Pay Gap Matters

So why does this matter so much? When I’m working with women on-on-one, they often tell me that the starting salary isn’t that big of a deal to them. They are just happy to be offered the job and they know that once they get in there, they’ll be able to show what they can do and will undoubtedly get a big raise. That could happen, but it usually doesn’t.

Most organizations have a very set policy about raises and it generally goes on a yearly percentage system. So, if you are making 77, or 82 or even 88 percent of what a man is making to start, and you each get 5% raises each year (that’s assuming he doesn’t get promoted over you or you don’t get promoted over him), the difference very quickly adds up-not just in salary, or salary increases, but also bonuses, which are usually based on a percentage of base pay, the percentage match that’s going into your retirement and your social security benefits. Base pay matters a lot. On average, depending on occupation, the National Women’s Law Center puts the average of lost income at about $406,280 over the course of a woman’s working life. That can top $1 million for Hispanic women and slightly less than $1 million for Black and Native American women. On average, women who have an MBA, law degree or medical degree will lose closer to 2 Million.

Preparing for Negotiation

Now that we know more about the wage gap and how it affects us, let’s talk about how to prepare for a salary negotiation. I can’t express enough how important it is for you to research what you are worth in the marketplace. For example, on you can put in your industry, job title, geographic location, your education, your experience and a variety of other attributes that will then produce a bell-shaped curve to tell you the range of what others are making on the low end, middle and high-end. It also suggests, based on the information you provided, where your salary should fall within that range. And that range is golden for you. That way you go in knowing what you should be worth to them. We don’t want to give that power to the employer. It’s risky to think, “well, they probably know what this position is worth. I’m sure it’s a fair offer.” It might be, but it might not. Either way, why not research your worth and negotiate for a better salary?

Make sure that you know your complete, prioritized, ideal job offer and how negotiable you are on each item (like benefits, time off, bonus structure, etc.) before stepping into a negotiation. Then, keep in mind that research has shown that women who frame their worth in terms of how it will positively contribute to the team/company have better outcomes and negotiate higher salaries than women who negotiate based on their own merits only. This is because we are all socialized to believe that women should think of others first. Consequently, talking about your education, experience and special skills/attributes will have a more positive affect if you talk about how those things will contribute positively to the team/company.

Angela Hayes, Associate Director of Alumni and Online Career Engagement

ANGELA HAYES serves as the Associate Director of Alumni and Online Career Engagement. Prior to coming to CSU, she worked as the Assistant Director of Alumni and Graduate Student Career Services at Kansas State University. She has a B.S. in psychology, an M.S. in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. in professional coaching and human development. She’s a nationally Board Certified Coach and a nationally Certified Health and Wellness Coach.

She has a passion for helping others to see their lives as full of possibilities and un-tapped potential. She views changes/transitions (both planned and unplanned) as opportunities for individuals to discover and plan out what they really want from their careers and lives.