Ask for the Raise
By Brooke Adams Law
Brooke Adams Law is an experienced copywriter and consultant who works with online business owners to optimize their web and sales copy so they can attract and engage their tribe. Find her at www.brookeadamslaw.com.
It’s 2018, and the wage gap between men and women persists. In 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent. At the current rate of of change, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2119, according to a report from the AAUW. Women with children often earn less after returning to the workforce, while men with children often earn more, according to a Joint Economic Committee report from the U.S. Senate. And the same report showed that women’s income tends to decrease as they age, while men’s income continues to increase.
So do some workplace differences in behavior: men are still four times more likely than women to ask for a raise. When women do ask, we typically ask for 30% less than men, according to Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda Babcock, co-author of Women Don’t Ask.
As women, we’re culturally conditioned in a lot of ways to undervalue ourselves. This shows itself in small social interactions: When someone compliments our outfit we say, “This old thing?” or “I got it on major sale at H&M!” When someone thanks us for doing something, instead of saying “you’re welcome,” we say, “no problem!” or “no worries.”
And perhaps, when we take a job or get promoted, we accept the salary we’re offered without a second thought. Because we’re so lucky to have this good job, right? We’re so lucky someone wants to pay us a living wage so we can pay our rent and put food on the table and maybe have a little left over for some extras.
But what if we looked at it the other way around? What if our company was lucky to have us?
Women make great employees. Female doctors have significantly lower mortality rates than their male colleagues at the same hospital. Congresswomen sponsor more legislation and work across the aisle more than their male counterparts. A study of large California companies found that those with women at the top performed considerably better than those with primarily male boards and executives.
We need to value our own contributions - and ask that our employers do the same, not just in words of affirmation but in an increase to our salaries.
When was the last time you asked for a raise? What’s holding you back?
Here’s a quick blueprint for how to do it:
Prepare. Know what your education and experience are worth, and know the salary range for your position. Research on sites like Glassdoor.
Share information with your colleagues. Consider asking colleagues for their salary range - maybe not the exact number - to get a sense of where your current salary falls.
Schedule a meeting with your boss. If you have a standing check-in with him or her, you could add it to your agenda; or you can schedule a formal meeting. Don’t plan to bring it up “when there’s an opening” - because who knows when that will come. Plan ahead and you’ll be prepared.
Make your case. Bring evidence of why you deserve a raise or a promotion. Frame the value you add to the company - in terms of projects completed, goals met or exceeded, and any other outstanding contributions you’ve made. The more concrete examples you can show of value you’ve provided to the company - and the less you’re relying on a vague summary of your skills - the better. If you’re angling for a promotion, bring the job description of the new role and draw parallels between new responsibilities and the work you’ve already succeeded at.
Plan ways to mitigate your own anxiety. If the reason you haven’t asked for a raise yet is because you exhibit anxious behaviors in stressful situations, plan to mitigate those ahead of time. So if you know that your mouth runs dry when you’re nervous, bring a bottle of water to the meeting. If your hands shake, keep them in your lap. If your voice tends to waver or get high and squeaky or you start talking fast, take deep breaths. You can do this! Another great strategy is to practice the conversation with a trusted friend or business coach.
Be prepared for pushback. Envision a few different scenarios and plan a response for each one. For example, consider how you would respond to each of these reactions:
“I’m happy to take this request to the higher-ups at the end of the quarter [three months from now].”
“I might be able to get approval for half the amount you requested.”
“I’m really surprised; I thought you were happy here.”
It may help to write out a response and practice speaking it aloud.
Consider what you’ll do if they say no. What can you live with, and what can’t you live with? If they give you half the amount requested with the promise of a bonus at Christmas, does that suffice? If they say “no” altogether, or if your colleague gets promoted ahead of you, will you want to stay with the company? At what point will you consider an exit strategy? Although contemplating a big change can feel scary, it can actually be refreshing to consider the worst-case scenario with a level head and evaluate your options.
The more you practice tough conversations, the better you’ll get at having them. They may never be easy, but you’ll have more experience.
Now go get that raise!