The other week I was having a conversation with one of my friends about women’s history month coming up, and the topic of the gender pay gap came up. We talked about how frustrating and unbelievable it is that women are STILL being paid less than men for the same work. Argh, patriarchy and sexism at its finest!
We know from extensive research this is a real thing: women continue to be paid significantly less than men for the same work. This happens for a range of reasons — all rooted in misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism — and shows up as gender bias in key decision-making moments in the workplace.
We also know that, as women, we often don’t ask to be paid what we rightly deserve. This can happen because of our experiences with gender bias, feeling not worthy enough and like we didn’t deserve it, worrying that we’re “faking” our achievements (hello impostor syndrome) and so much more. Over time, this constant negative messaging becomes internalized, and we actually start to believe these thoughts.
But here’s the thing: we need to be able to recognize our true value. As women, we need to ask for more because we’re worth it and we deserve it!
Know What You Deserve — and Then Go Get It
You may remember from my personal story that I’m a former lawyer turned HR executive turned DEI consultant and empowerment speaker, so I’ve been having career development conversations — including conversations about salary — with women for over 20 years. I’d be the first to tell you that asking to be paid more can feel like a tricky, if not impossible, conversation to navigate. But if you don’t stand in your power and take the initiative to ask, employers may not offer you your true value.
I know this experience firsthand. Throughout my career as a Woman of Color, I got sick of being underpaid and undercut for my value. Eventually I finally decided to stand in my power and ask to be paid more than market value. I knew I was excellent, and I knew my own worth, so I asked for what I deserved — and after much effort, I got it!
I didn’t just waltz into my boss’s office one day and ask for a raise. I had a step-by-step plan that I rehearsed and prepared to ensure I was showing up at my best in that moment.
Based on my experience, here are the 6 steps you’ll want to take when asking for a pay raise in your current job. So, grab a pen and take notes as I take you through the dos and don’ts of asking to be paid more.
6 Steps for Asking for a Raise
Step #1: Know the Salary Range for Your Specific Job Within Your Organization
The first step is to figure out what the going salary range is for your job within your organization. You’ll want to figure out what your organization is roughly paying other employees who are doing the same job as you.
You can ask your HR department or your colleagues, but one of the most important groups of people to ask about salary are those who have already left the organization. People who have left are more willing to share about salary after they’re gone than when they’re working in the organization. Start having these conversations now!
Step #2: Know the Market
The next step is to conduct some research and look into what the market range is for your job across industries. Figure out what other people are being paid for your current job at other organizations and in other sectors. This is a really important step that will help you to better understand the current salary range on the market for your job — which, in turn, will help you to have a more thorough and convincing conversation with your boss.
Step #3: Arrange A Meeting With your Boss
After you finish your research, the next step is to actually schedule a meeting with your boss to talk about your raise. Make sure that you’re very clear and direct about this from the get-go. Let them know you’d like to speak to them about an increase in your compensation. Don’t be vague or shy here! The more direct you are in the beginning, the more likely you’ll get what you actually ask for. Whether your meeting is in person or online, use these tips to help you be better prepared to speak.
Step #4: Script and Practice
So now the meeting is scheduled, but what you do leading up to the meeting is just as important as what happens during the meeting. Preparation is key here — be sure you know exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it and write ALL of it down. (Pro tip: utilize a tool called scripting to help you prepare for what want to say. Check out my video here or download my scripting worksheet here.)
List out all of the reasons why you think you deserve to be paid more and refer back to the research you conducted in steps 1 and 2. Once you finish writing your script, don’t just stop there — rehearse it! Practice, practice, and practice again to make sure your script is solid. That way, when you’re nervous or triggered during the meeting you’ll have the words ready for you at your disposal when you need them.
Step #5: Meet and Follow Up
You’re now prepared as you’ll ever be, and you know exactly what you want and how you’re going to ask for it. You have your meeting with your boss, and (fingers crossed!) it goes really well. Now what? The work doesn’t stop there — following up with your boss immediately after your meeting is a critical step. Follow up in writing by summarizing the discussion and what your expectations are in an email. This not only creates a paper trail for HR, but it also signals to your boss that this is very important to you.
Step #6: Follow Up Again!
So you send your first follow up email immediately after your meeting. Your boss acknowledges it, but weeks go by and you hear nothing. After all that hard work and preparation, this is the last thing you want to happen! Step 6 is to consistently follow up until you get a resolution. Oftentimes bosses or leaders will have these types of conversations and then “take it away” for weeks and weeks on end before doing anything about it. By consistently following up and reminding them, you’re showing how important this is to you and how seriously you’re taking it. So if you don’t hear back after the first time, follow up again!
Shut Down the Noise — You Got This!
These six steps will help you feel more confident going into conversations with your boss about your compensation. These conversations aren’t easy, and there’s no magic formula to follow — but hopefully these 6 steps will be a good jumping off point for you to ask for what you want.
As women, we’re constantly being undervalued and told that there are so many things that are wrong with us — that we’re not smart enough, that we’re too bossy, that we’re not capable, and more. But you have the power to shut down this noise and fight for what you’re worth — because you deserve it!
The next time you’re looking for a new job or negotiating a salary at your current role, follow these six steps as you prepare to ask for a raise. Stand in your power, do the research, and ask for what you’re worth. Good luck!
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