In between April Fool’s Day and Tax Day, there’s a holiday that most people don’t observe, much less know about. And it’s certainly nothing to celebrate.
Equal Pay Day falls on April 14 this year. The date is selected to represent how far into the year women need to work to earn what men did in the previous year. The goal of the day, established by the National Committee for Pay Equity in 1996, is to raise awareness that women, on average, are still earning less than men in the same jobs. The gender wage gap is even wider for women of color.
One major way to combat this inequity at its root is to get more women to negotiate for better wages when they are offered a job–especially the first job that some studies found had the potential to add an additional $500,000 in earnings over the course of a career.
Negotiating is rarely a cakewalk, particularly for someone just starting out in the world of work. Levo, a professional network that provides mentorship and career development tools, found that it’s particularly challenging for women due to gender biases that discourage them from asking for more. polled nearly 200 members between the ages of 19 and 57, and found that 66% accepted an offer without negotiating any aspect of it.
Only 41% negotiated any part (salary and/or benefits) of their job offer when they started their current job, and only 21% negotiated any part of their offer on the first job they took out of school.
Levo’s survey found that many simply don’t know how to ask for more. Other factors that stopped women from asking for a better offer:
- 63% felt uncomfortable negotiating
- 58% were afraid of losing their job/offer
- 56% didn’t know what to ask for
- 55% didn’t want to come across as pushy
- 51% didn’t know they should ask for more
One woman who was surveyed said that at her previous employer, the HR manager made her feel like the offer would be pulled if she tried to negotiate for a better salary. “I later found out that he was hired for specifically this reason: He was great at offering way too little money,” she explained. In retrospect, this woman wishes she’d spoken up. “I feel like my worth is lower now for any future compensation packages.”
Sometimes, salary and benefits negotiations do end a seeker’s chance of snagging the position.
Yet Levo’s findings suggest that women who negotiated their offers at their current jobs were more likely to feel fairly rewarded, committed to the company, and more engaged in their jobs.
If you’re wavering on whether to negotiate or take the offer no matter what, Levo suggests asking yourself these questions:
- Have you done your homework and researched the average salary for your job type, level, and industry in your particular location? If so, you have ample ammunition for negotiating a reasonable package.
- Have you talked to mentors or peers who’ve been through successful negotiations? Learning which strategies worked can also be an effective way to approach your own negotiation.
- Have you practiced your pitch? Participating in mock negotiations can help you better understand what works and make you more prepared for the real thing.
Finally, once you get the offer, Levo recommends taking a bit of time to mull it over. A day or two will afford you time to consider the above factors and determine if the salary and benefits match the value you would bring to the job.