Negotiating Pay, for Women

An interview with Patty Tanji

Joining us today is Patty Tanji, founder of Open Workplace LLC, a consulting practice helping women align their strengths with corporate strategies in order to earn more and move up.

1. Why is pay negotiation important, specifically for women?

Pay negotiation is important for women because, on average, they make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women have some catching up to do. Economists call this phenomenon the gender wage gap. Many factors go into this wage gap such as job choice, and taking time out of the work force to raise children.  For instance engineers (a male dominated field) make more money than elementary school teachers (female dominated fields). So even though, on the surface, in terms of skill, effort, working conditions, and level of responsibility, one might imagine both those jobs ought to be paid similarly, they just aren’t. Engineering grads earn significantly more than teaching grads. Its not fair, but that’s how the market for wages work. So, in order to close this wage gap, women can start negotiating their salaries. They can also ask for pay raises but that strategy is a little different than negotiating pay. Both involve acting upon a shift at work, some change that would create an opportunity to ask for more. A new job, a job promotion, taking on more responsibility, etc.

There is also research to show that women undervalue their worth. A caveat here, I’m talking in generalizations, so some of what I’m saying may not resonate with a reader, but for others these words will ring true. For instance, the idea of asking for more money may conjure up images of greed or self promotion. The research shows that men are more likely to negotiate their salary than women. A great book that documents this research is “Women Don’t Ask” by Dr. Linda Babcock.  For some men, asking for more is about winning the game and they are rewarded for asking. But even men can undervalue their worth.

Another reason negotiation is important is the long term, compound effect of money. Even $2000 more in negotiated salary, when compounded annually at 3% (if you get a 3% raise every year) is $57,352.97 after 20 years!  Every dollar you leave on the table is less money you will have when you retire.

2. Should you negoitate even when you feel the compensation and benefits offerred are good enough?

Yes. For the last reasons stated above. But also, what is good enough? Remember, its very easy to undervalue our worth. Its very easy to take the first offer that comes our way. “Good enough” might mean that a person that is hired a month from now doing your job could be making more and not because they are better at what they do but because they negotiated their salary. By negotiating, you are showing your potential employer that you are up to the task. You are demonstrating that you are confident and capable of negotiating, a skill that can be used in many facets of any job, with colleagues, suppliers, and customers.

3. What are some things to ‘Avoid’ or ‘Do’ during pay negotiation?

Avoid: Coming across as a person that only cares about salary and benefits. You really have to show a genuine interest in the company and the job. Sell yourself first. Listen. Show how your strengths will lead to a stronger organization.

Avoid: Talking about salary until you have been offered a job if at all possible.

Avoid: Asking for too much or too little. Make sure your salary expectations are reasonable.

Do: Homework. Find out what your skills are worth in the market place. Pay for a report or if you don’t have the extra $75, at least use any of the online tools to get a free report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will have a median salary for certain jobs as well. Some state governments have salary data as well.

Do: Find out from trade associations what the going rate is for a person doing what you do. Ask a trusted friend or mentor who knows your job and industry if she thinks your salary expectations are reasonable.

Do. Negotiate in good faith knowing the outcome will be a win/win for you and your potential employer.

Do. Practice the negotiation conversation with a friend, a coach, a mentor. The more you practice the easier it will be to talk about money.

4. Lastly, does it matter if you are employed vs unemployed when it comes to negotiating pay?

Not at all. Do negotiate. However, if you have a job you do have some extra leverage at the negotiations. It is normal to expect more money at your next job and potential employers will understand this.  Also if you are employed you may be a little more confident because you know you have a job to fall back on should you not be offered what you expected.

About the Author

Patty Tanji

Patty holds a Bachelor of Science in Business degree (Information and Decision Sciences) and a Master of Liberal Studies degree (final project: Barriers and Breakthroughs on the Way to the Boardroom) from the University of Minnesota. Her professional career includes consulting, computer operations, business systems analysis and design. In 2011 she won the Century College Women of Distinction Award for her work on gender pay equity. In 2010 she and the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota were named Champion Coalition from the Minnesota Women’s Consortium for outstanding work toward fair pay and economic justice. In 2012 she began Open Workplace LLC a consulting practice helping women align their strengths with corporate strategies in order to earn more and move up. Her vision: That workplaces be transparent, participative, and focused on achieving human potential.

Patty offers free pay raise strategy sessions at

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