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Job Salary Negotiation Tips for Women Leaders by Martin Polanco

Martin Polanco

Not sure how to negotiate your salary? We all know we should—and yet many of us don’t because it can feel awkward and difficult says Martin Polanco.

Here’s some guidance on what to do — and not do — when you’re in the hot seat.

1. Manage your expectations.

Women tend to ask for less than men do at the beginning of negotiations — and they’re less likely to negotiate at all, according to Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. Research shows that women are not as effective as men in negotiating for themselves, partly because they feel guilty about asking for something that benefits only them. Women need to come out from behind the guilt and fear, if only briefly, and stop thinking of salary negotiation as a selfish act, Babcock advises.

2. Be realistic.

Figure out how much you hope or expect to achieve during the negotiation before going into it so you can avoid falling short of your mark.

3. Think outside the box.

If you’re underpaid, think about what skills or added responsibility you could offer that would make it worth someone else’s while to pay more for your work. Four-star general Ann Dunwoody became a poster child for this tactic when she asked her boss for an “equivalent substitution” in compensation after he told her he had no budget to give her a raise. She offered to cover some of his duties while she was deployed, if only temporarily, and he agreed. Within two years, she was promoted four grades—in large part because of the dramatic increase in salary that came with each new rank, Babcock reports, based on Anna Beginner’s book Women Want More.

4. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

It’s not always best to jump at the first offer, even if it seems generous.

5. Negotiate with yourself.

Ask yourself what you are worth to the company, and then settle for no less during salary negotiations, suggests Carolyn Buck Luce, a consultant on women in leadership and author of Breaking through Bias. Instead of asking for more money, try challenging your employer by asking how you can contribute more effectively or efficiently—in the long run this will make both parties happy says Martin Polanco. You may also consider offering to take on new responsibilities or agreeing to work overtime without pay in exchange for a higher compensation package later on. By accepting a lower salary when you ask for a promotion or raise, you can improve your job security and potentially move up the ranks more quickly.

6. Get creative during negotiations.

In addition to asking for more money, consider what else might satisfy your boss’s wish list—a new title? A flexible work schedule? Make sure you get something in return before making concessions that may ultimately hurt your income over time….


Do I really need to negotiate my salary?

Yes. Even if you’re happy with the job, remember that knowledge of how much more you could be making might make you more satisfied at work and likely to stay longer. Plus, think of all the more important purchases you will make in your lifetime—buying a home, paying for college tuition, putting money toward retirement. Negotiating can help ensure that more of your hard-earned income goes where you want it to.

What happens when you don’t negotiate your salary?

If you don’t negotiate, you may miss out on tens of thousands of dollars in additional earnings. Over the course of a career explains Martin Polanco. A woman who negotiates for her starting salary and gets 5% more could make $2 million more than a woman who doesn’t bother to negotiate, [according to Linda Babcock’s book Women Don’t Ask]. If she negotiated against that offer with each raise and promotion, she would come out ahead by nearly half a million dollars.


Salary negotiation is not easy. According to Linda Babcock, “Negotiating is like playing chess with someone who has a lot more information than you do”. If you carefully research the market value of your position, understand what’s negotiable. And ask for that instead of deferring to whatever your employer offers, then it can be worth your time.

Women are the underdogs in negotiation because of various factors that are unique to their gender. They need to become more aware of their own rights. And what they are truly worth if they want to get ahead, both personally and professionally.

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