Research confirms that women earn less money than men.
Despite equal opportunity legislation, assertiveness training, and increased transparency about pay scales to ensure equality, women consistently earn less per hour, per week, per month for the same work, than their male counterparts. Many point to women’s hesitation to ask for a raise as a key cause of their generally lower starting and regular earnings.
I have coached many female clients on the nuance of asking for what they want to make when being considered for a job, as well as how to continue to receive bonuses and incentives that feel equitable and fair. I can point to many systemic structural issues that are a factor in women making less money than men (starting wage being lower, career interruptions such as child-rearing, internalized self-worth or confidence) but that will have to serve as another blog!
Net-Net—the issue is not “the ask.” It is the held beliefs that drive the ask (or not). Most people feel gratitude, pride, and genuine relief when they receive the offer of a job. They usually worked hard for it, and it always feels good to be wanted and to land somewhere where we can work and get paid! But it seems to me that women have a different private conversation in their own mind than men do. It sounds something like this:
“I can’t believe I got the job! Phew! It is a decent wage—I should be grateful.”
“If I go back and ask for more (money, benefits, vacation, flexibility) they might say ‘No’ at best, and at worst, withdraw their offer.”
“If I start here, I can always earn more over time. This is fine for now.”
The problem is, “now” is the baseline for any future promotion or progress, so women not asking for higher pay upfront results in systemic wage discrepancies nationally.
I am deeply troubled by the held beliefs that we as women carry that drive our behavior in compensation discussions, including:
- The idea that asking for what we want/need will result in rejection
- A bias towards thinking of asking for more money or benefits as rude
- Feeling that we are so lucky to have a job that it overshadows our pragmatic need to be fairly paid
- Unconsciously accepting that the coveted offer meets our need for self-worth, regardless of whether the compensation is high enough
I propose we as working women try on a set of new beliefs about money and pay:
I believe that compensation discussions are a negotiation, and that asking is a normal part of the offer acceptance process. And in the worst case scenario, “no the salary is what we offered” is not the same as “no we no longer want you.”
I believe that monetary compensation and benefits relate to fair labor practice and are the currency for how organizations assess value of contribution from employees. It is responsible to know and to ask for what you feel is fair for the job you have.
- I earned the right to this offer through my hard work and accomplishment. Luck may also be on my side, but regardless, I deserve to be fairly paid.
- My self-worth is not tied to what I make, but it is connected to what I am willing to settle for as felt pair pay.