Top tips for women to negotiate a higher salary

February 2024

Here's how to make a strong case for a salary package that truly reflects your skills and experience.

 

Key takeaways

  • Be prepared: do your research before you enter a salary negotiation. The more prepared you are, the greater the chances of a favourable outcome.
  • Make a strong pitch: make a case for why your employer should invest in you. Detail the value you bring to the company.
  • Rehearse your pitch: practice key talking points with a mentor or friend and be ready to field unexpected questions.

Like your job but not sure you’re being paid what you’re worth? Or are you going for a new position and not feeling confident about having the inevitable salary conversation?

In general, women are less likely to ask for more money when they are offered a job, and more likely to stay at a lower-paid job.1 Reasons vary, but some of this reluctance includes being uncomfortable discussing salary, being hesitant to ask and being less confident than men in negotiating.2

It begs the thought: Why? And what can be done about it?
 

Advice from a careers coach

One factor holding women back on negotiating salary is a deep-seated unwillingness to discuss financial matters, even when it’s in our interest to do so, says careers coach Sally-Anne Blanshard, who’s helped hundreds of women, and men, get comfortable talking about remuneration.

“Often, people come at conversations around money from a fear and avoidance base, whether it’s talking about their financial position or doing a budget forecast,” Blanshard says.

“In a work environment, that means women are too often unwilling to rock the boat. Lack of confidence talking about money and managing financial negotiations can mean they subconsciously feel they should be grateful for what they’ve got. They can find it very difficult to be assertive about what they’re actually worth to the organisation.”

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and a shot of courage, you can tackle the topic head-on.

Here are some guiding principles to help you secure a pay packet which reflects the contribution you make, and the value you bring to your employer.
 

1. Do your homework

Making sure you’re being paid appropriately starts with understanding what someone with your skills and experience is worth on the open market. That means knowing what a successful applicant could expect to be paid, if a job just like yours came up tomorrow.

If you’re unsure, Blanshard says, find out.

Scanning jobs ads on sites like LinkedIn and Seek, reading salary surveys, and talking to recruiters if you receive an approach, can all help you get a handle on what other workers in your sector with similar responsibilities earn.
 

2. Lead with the benefits first

If you’re an existing employee, a key way to talk about salary is to talk about the contribution you make. And that begins with some thinking.

Consider and make notes on your own role – past, current and future:

  • The tasks you undertake as part of your job remit, and the wins that delivers
  • The tasks you undertake above and beyond your job remit, and the wins that delivers
  • And the value that all the above brings to the organisation

Viewed through this lens, you should of course demonstrate that you’re delivering everything on your current job description – after all, that’s what you’re being paid to do.

But it also shows your employer you’re worth extra because you’re not just doing extra – taking on additional responsibilities, making customers happier, identifying new business opportunities or securing unexpected wins – but you’re also delivering extra. And that the company is benefitting as a direct result.

Preparing your story this way helps elevate a salary conversation from ‘money’ to ‘value’; to the value that you deliver, and therefore why you’re worth it.
 

3. Do your future self a favour

Learning to hold your own in a salary negotiation can be empowering and rewarding.

After that, securing a salary that reflects your market worth doesn’t just mean more money in the bank each month, or a better lifestyle for you and your family. You can also pay it forward – to yourself.

Superannuation is calculated as a percentage of your base wages or salary (currently 11%) and the extra dollars you earn today could help boost your super account balance so you can enjoy a more comfortable retirement down the track.

It’s never too early too early or too late to build your super. Your employer may already be contributing to your super account. But you might be thinking of adding a little more, because even small additional amounts, into your super today, can make a big difference down the track. And by contributing more, you may even end up paying less income tax.

That’s something worth fighting for, in the here and now.

 


1 Research from the University of Sydney suggests that, while women are now just as likely as men to want to negotiate over pay, they’re less likely to have the opportunity to do so. Original article ‘Negotiating the Gender Wage Gap’, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/irel.12228
2 ‘The Gender Pay Gap is Real’, https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/the-gender-wage-gap

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