The Pay Gap Stops Here: Women’s Guide to Overcoming Obstacles in Salary Negotiation

Ash Serrano, MAMC

Ash Serrano, MAMC

April 20, 2023

We all know women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, and the data is overwhelmingly clear.

Yet, it’s still an issue. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, women earn 82 cents for every dollar men make; the number goes lower as you add other considerations like age, race, etc. That means on March 14, women’s pay catches up to what men made in 2022. It’s time to take matters into our own hands through salary negotiation.

Salary negotiation can be daunting, but studies show that women often face unique challenges when negotiating higher salaries. However, there are ways for women to overcome these challenges and negotiate a fair wage that reflects their worth.

A 2020 job search website Glassdoor survey found that only 46% of women negotiate their initial salary offer, compared to 52% of men. The same study found that women who negotiate their salaries typically ask for 30% less than men.

In this blog post, we’ll explore why salary negotiation is tough for women and share tips on overcoming these challenges.

Why Is Salary Negotiation So Tough for Women?

Gender Bias

Gender bias is a pervasive issue that can make salary negotiation particularly difficult for women. Despite significant progress towards gender equality in the workplace, studies have shown that women are still viewed differently than men regarding assertiveness and competency. As a result, women may need more pushback or be perceived as less competent when advocating for themselves in salary negotiations.

One study found that men and women tend to penalize women who negotiate for higher salaries. Women who negotiate their salaries are often viewed as less likable than women who don’t negotiate, and they may even face backlash from their peers and superiors. This can create a vicious cycle where women are discouraged from negotiating, which reinforces the gender pay gap and perpetuates a culture of undervaluing women’s contributions in the workplace.

No alt text provided for this image

Gender bias can also manifest subtly, such as when managers assume women are less committed to their careers because of family responsibilities. This assumption can lead to women being offered lower salaries or fewer opportunities for advancement, which further reinforces gender disparities in the workplace.

It’s vital for both women and men to be aware of gender bias in the workplace and to work to combat it actively. By challenging stereotypes and advocating for equal treatment, we can create a more equitable and supportive work environment for everyone.

Limited Information

Women may not have access to the same information as men regarding salary ranges and compensation packages. This lack of knowledge can make knowing what is fair and reasonable to ask for in a negotiation challenging.

Did you know that in the United States, you have the right to speak openly in the workplace about salary? In the United States, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 protects employees’ rights to discuss their wages and working conditions with each other, even if their employer prohibits it. Knowing this can help ensure that they are being paid fairly and can advocate for themselves in salary negotiations.

Lack of Confidence

Women may also struggle with confidence regarding salary negotiation and worry about being viewed as aggressive or unlikable if they ask for more money. Additionally, women are often socialized to prioritize others’ needs over their own, making it harder for them to assert themselves in a negotiation.

Studies have found that women often rate their job performance lower than their male counterparts, even when their objective performance metrics are similar. This lack of confidence can translate to lower salary expectations and less assertiveness in salary negotiations.

Women may also receive less feedback and recognition for their work, leading to a lower sense of self-worth and confidence. It’s essential for women to recognize their worth and value and to approach salary negotiations with confidence and a clear understanding of their contributions and accomplishments.

Fear of Backlash

Women may also fear backlash if they negotiate their salary, such as being viewed as problematic or causing tension in their workplace. This fear can hold them back from advocating for themselves and asking for what they deserve.

Studies have shown that women who negotiate their salary are viewed more negatively than men who negotiate and are more likely to be penalized. Additionally, women are more likely to feel nervous or uncomfortable about negotiating their salary and may be perceived as pushy or demanding if they do.

These barriers contribute to the persistence of the gender pay gap and the underrepresentation of women in higher-paying positions.

Other Considerations Related to Salary Negotiation for Women

Women who are Moms: The Motherhood Penalty

Salary disparity and motherhood is a complex issue that affects many working women. Research has shown that women with children are often paid less than their male counterparts, even with the same qualifications and experience. This is often referred to as the “motherhood penalty.”

No alt text provided for this image

According to a 2020 report by the National Women’s Law Center, on average, women who have children earn just 71 cents for every dollar earned by men who have children. A 2021 study by LeanIn.Org found that women with children are 15% less likely to be promoted than men with children.

Several factors contribute to the motherhood penalty, including unconscious biases against working mothers, lack of access to affordable childcare, and inflexible work arrangements that make it difficult for women to balance work and family responsibilities.

Women of Color: Intersectional Barriers

Women of color face additional challenges when negotiating their salaries. Studies show that women of color are often paid less than their white counterparts, even when they have the same education, experience, and qualifications. This is due to both gender and racial biases in the workplace. Women of color may also face stereotypes and assumptions that can make it harder to negotiate their salaries, such as being seen as too aggressive or passive.

According to the American Progress report, the 83 cents gap is widened when race is factored in. Hispanic women earn only 57 cents, Native women 60 cents, multiracial Black women 63 cents, and Black women 64 cents for each dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

Additionally, they may not have the same access to networks and mentors as their white colleagues, which can limit their access to information about salaries and job opportunities.

Women of Any Age: Navigating Ageism

Ageism can affect women of all ages when it comes to salary negotiations. Younger women may face age-related biases undermining their abilities or experience, making it harder to negotiate higher salaries. On the other hand, older women may experience ageism in the form of assumptions about their ability to keep up with younger colleagues or fears that they may retire soon, leading to lower salary offers.

Younger women may be seen as inexperienced or not yet having earned their way up the corporate ladder, leading to lower salary offers than their male or older female counterparts. They may also be perceived as less committed to their jobs due to assumptions about their desire to have children or start families. These biases can make it difficult for younger women to negotiate fair salaries.

Older women may face age-related biases that limit their ability to negotiate for higher salaries. Employers may assume that older women are less tech-savvy or less willing to learn new skills, leading to lower salary offers. Older women may also face stereotypes about their abilities to keep up with the job demands or work long hours. Additionally, employers may assume that older women are less committed to their careers due to impending retirement or health issues.

There is limited data specifically on the intersection of ageism and salary negotiation for women. Still, studies have shown that younger and older women may face challenges negotiating salaries and advancing in their careers.

According to a 2019 survey by LinkedIn, 42% of workers over the age of 45 reported feeling that age had been a factor in not getting hired for a job.

Younger women may face assumptions that they lack experience or are less qualified due to their age. A 2019 National Women’s Law Center report found that women ages 16-24 are more likely to be paid the federal minimum wage or less than older women.

Women with Disabilities: The Impact of Ableism

Women with disabilities often face additional challenges when negotiating their salaries. They may have to contend with the added stigma of their disability, which can lead to negative biases and assumptions about their abilities and productivity.

A survey conducted by the Kessler Foundation found that people with disabilities are more likely to experience wage discrimination than those without disabilities. Specifically, the study found that people with disabilities earned an average of 37% less than those without disabilities.

Women with disabilities may also face physical or logistical barriers that make attending interviews or negotiating in person harder. Additionally, some employers may assume that accommodating their disability is an added expense, impacting their salary negotiations.

How Can Women Overcome These Challenges?

Do Your Research

Before entering into a salary negotiation, it’s essential to do your research. Look up your position’s and industry’s salary ranges, and gather information on the company’s compensation packages. This will help you determine what is fair and reasonable to ask for in a negotiation. My favorite tool to use is Glassdoor. Glassdoor’s salary data is based on anonymous contributions from current and former employees who voluntarily share their salary information on the site.

No alt text provided for this image

To access salary information on Glassdoor, you can search for a specific job title and location and then view the salary range for that position based on the data contributed by other users. The salary range typically includes a median or average salary and a range of wages reported for that position.

Know Your Value

Women should also know their worth and be prepared to articulate why they deserve a higher salary. Take an inventory of your skills, experience, and accomplishments, and be ready to demonstrate your value to the company. Do you clearly understand the value you bring to the table? JobHero is an excellent resource for reviewing other relevant resumes.

When negotiating a salary, it’s crucial to articulate why you deserve to be compensated at a certain level. Inventory your skills, experience, and accomplishments, and be ready to demonstrate your worth to the company. Consider the impact you’ve made in your current or past roles, the results you’ve achieved, and the unique skills and expertise you bring.

By knowing your value and communicating it clearly, you can confidently approach salary negotiations and increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.

Practice Your Pitch

Practicing your negotiation pitch can help boost your confidence and make you feel more comfortable. Write down your key points and practice delivering them with confidence. You can also role-play with a friend or family member to get feedback.

Once you have identified your key points and arguments for why you deserve a higher salary, practice delivering them clearly and concisely. This can help you feel more comfortable and confident during the actual negotiation.

Consider practicing your pitch in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend or family member who can provide constructive feedback. Remember, the more you practice, the more prepared and confident you will be during the negotiation process.

No alt text provided for this image

Consider More Than Just Salary

Salary is crucial but is not the only factor to consider when negotiating your compensation package. Consider other benefits like flexible work hours, work-from-home options, vacation time, and professional development opportunities. These perks can add significant value to your compensation package and improve your overall job satisfaction. Glassdoor offers a wealth of information like this.

Be Firm and Confident

When negotiating your salary, being firm and confident is essential. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and stand your ground. Remember that negotiating your salary is a sign of confidence and self-worth. It’s important to keep in mind that negotiation is a two-way street.

While you should be firm and confident in advocating for yourself, it’s also important to be respectful and professional in communicating with your employer. Keep the conversation focused on your company value and desire to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. If your employer can’t meet your salary expectations, consider negotiating for other benefits, such as additional vacation time or professional development opportunities.

Remember that the negotiation process allows both parties to come to a fair agreement. Being firm and confident can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

No alt text provided for this image

To wrap up, salary negotiation can be challenging for women, but it’s not impossible. By researching, knowing your value, practicing your pitch, considering more than just salary, and being firm and confident, women can successfully negotiate a fair wage that reflects their worth. Remember that negotiating your salary is an essential step in closing the gender pay gap, and by advocating for yourself, you are also supporting other women in the workforce.

What tips can you give that may help the next woman in her salary negotiation journey? Comment below!

Ash Serrano is a marketer with nearly 15 years of in-house and agency experience and a knack for creating engaging written and creative content that performs. She has worked with major brands like Amazon, discovery+, Gensler, HGTV, Hulu, KPMG, Pizza Hut, Sugarbear Hair, Synovus, and the Kardashians. She specializes in executive personal branding, creative direction, and influencer marketing. She also owns a career services company, Fairy Career Mother, geared toward getting more women of color into leadership positions.

Published by

Ash Serrano, MAMC

Ash Serrano, MAMCAsh Serrano, MAMC

LinkedIn Top Voice | Executive Visibility at Big 4 Firm | Latina | MarComm Leader | Social Strategist | Creative DirectorLinkedIn Top Voice | Executive Visibility at Big 4 Firm | Latina | MarComm Leader | Social Strategist | Creative Director

Published • 11mo

15 articlesFollow

Are you a woman? Know a woman? This article is for you.

We all know that women make significantly less than their male counterparts. What can we do to take matters into our own hands to combat the hashtag#wagegap? The answer is hashtag#SalaryNegotiation.

In this article, I explore women’s challenges in salary negotiation, why they exist, and tips for overcoming them. When you factor in the intersectionality of things like age, race, disabilities, and motherhood, it becomes glaringly obvious for women to learn to negotiate their salaries.

So, if you are a woman or know a woman, I highly recommend reading and sharing!

Ash Serrano, MAMC

Ash Serrano, MAMC

LinkedIn Top Voice | Executive Visibility at Big 4 Firm | Latina | MarComm Leader | Social Strategist | Creative Director

By Erin Wheeler
Erin Wheeler Career Consultant