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How Women Can Get the Pay Raises Men Do

February 11, 2017, 6:00 PM UTC
Business people writing notes on whiteboard
Business people writing notes on whiteboard
Photograph by Hero Images via Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you ask for a raise?” is written by Cat Lincoln, CEO and founder of Clever.

Research shows that men are more likely to be successful in talking themselves into a higher salary than women are. The reluctance of female employees to advocate for themselves is often the difference between climbing the career ladder at a healthy pace and not climbing it at all.

I can tell you that in my years of hiring hundreds of employees, 100% of the men I’ve hired have negotiated something—money, time off, and in the case of an unpaid intern, access to food. Yes, even the unpaid intern negotiated his “salary.”

By failing to negotiate salary, promotions, and other advancement opportunities that men commonly and aggressively pursue, we’re not putting our mouths where the money is.

Here’s how women should approach negotiating:

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat
Women are often perceived as greedy and demanding when trying to negotiate—an attribute rarely ascribed to men. Talking about money is emotional. Add in the general shame around talking about money at all, and there’s a pervasive sense of guilt, whether you make the ask or don’t. But what you must realize is that negotiating about compensation is not only appropriate, but expected. Remove the guilt and find data to justify what you’re asking for.

See also: Don’t Ever Just Wait For a Raise

Do your homework
Level the “information battleground” and check out and to see how people with similar skills, education, and experience fare up, both nationwide and in your city. Women are taught to communicate in non-confrontational ways (not that asking for a raise is confrontational, but it can feel like it), and rarely encouraged to consider their contributions in terms of financial value.

Role-play with a trusted colleague
There’s a myth that women aren’t supportive of other women, but I’ve found the opposite is the case. I was fortunate enough to have three powerful mentors at different stages of my career who put their political capital on the line time and again for my colleagues and me. The good news is that we have an opportunity to engage in self-perpetuating activity: the more women in powerful, high-paying roles, the more women we’ll see in powerful, high-paying roles.


Make it factual, not emotional
At my company, we teach all employees to have the conversation with their supervisors by framing the ask in terms of the value she brings to the organization, reinforcing the concept that her contributions are valuable. We teach her to detail specific milestones that demonstrate that value and make it tangible for her supervisor. These conversations are scary and emotional, and very few of us have ever said the words, “I’d like to talk to you about my compensation” out loud. But when you work through the fear, you realize it’s just a factual conversation. It feels a little awkward, but this is for money. It’s worth feeling a little self-conscious to practice and get it right.

I am always acutely aware of how vulnerable and scary it can be to take a leap of faith and declare your value. However, I believe it is my responsibility as a leader to be supportive as my female employees take ownership of their achievements and ask for what they’re worth—and then to put my money where my mouth is. It’s my favorite part of my job.