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BY Bonnie Marcus

How to Avoid the Number One Mistake Women Make When Negotiating for a Raise

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Photo credit: Pixabay (headshot photo by John Abbott)

TAGS:Compensation, Negotiating

For years we’ve heard that the number one mistake women make negotiating for a raise is that they don’t ask for one. In fact, in their 2003 book Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Lashever confirmed that hypothesis based on their research at the time. Women don’t negotiate as often or as well as men.

But now there is new research that reveals that may be changing. Younger women, specifically women under 40, are asking for raises as often as men, and are successful in negotiating a higher salary. That’s great news!

If it’s true that we’re getting bolder and learning to advocate more for ourselves, we will undoubtedly be in the position to have to negotiate for a raise. And we need to know how to do it well.

Certainly, you need to do your homework and research similar companies in your industry and geography to understand comparable salary ranges, but the most powerful tool in any negotiation whether it’s for a salary increase, promotion, or new position, is your value proposition.

It has been my experience, coaching hundreds of professional women since 2007, that by far, the biggest blunder we make when negotiating for a raise is not understanding our value.

Let’s face it. How can you possibly negotiate for yourself if you don’t understand the most persuasive piece of information in a negotiation? In other words, why should a company give you an increase? It’s never about how hard you work, your challenging workload, the long hours you put in, because that’s your job! It’s the value your work brings to the organization that matters. That’s what your boss and your company care about. And if you are able to communicate that with confidence, you have a much greater chance of getting a well-deserved raise.

How do you know what your value proposition is?

In my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, I devote a full chapter to this. But in a nutshell, here’s some quick advice.

Think about a few of the successful situations you have been involved in at work, and determine how you contributed to that success. If you weren’t leading the project, what was your contribution to the team? What is it about your work and the manner in which you approach the work that leads to specific positive business outcomes?

After you recall several of these projects, a pattern will emerge about your contribution. That’s your value proposition. That’s your secret sauce.

Next reach out to a trusted colleague, mentor, or supervisor or former boss and ask them for feedback on this. It’s important to understand how others perceive you as well. Perhaps they will validate it or give you more ideas of what they see your unique contribution to be. That gives you great insight.

Whatever your value proposition, what’s important in the negotiation is to communicate how this will help the company reach its objectives. What your boss and your company really need to know is how you are going to help them in the future. Position your value proposition as a benefit to the company, not to you personally. That gives you the ammunition to get a raise.


Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker focused on women's advancement in the workplace. A former corporate executive and CEO, Bonnie is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, and co-author of Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women's Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage.


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Related Community Discussions

  • My salary and benefits package is set at a national level. How do I effectively negotiate for myself when my local contacts have no power in setting my compensation?
    My local boss has agreed that a change needs to be made, has discussed on my behalf with our local senior leadership and president, all of whom agreed with the new offer (which was created without my input, so I have not idea what changes the offer included). When passed on to the national HR department, it was shot down. How do you handle negotiation when local boss and co president approve pay change, but it's denied by national HR department?

    Do I try to move forward in pushing the subject, or is it time to jump ship and find a new opportunity?

  • I have been working for three years in my current role and this is my first job after completing my STEM PhD. I work at a Big Oil company, but was just offered a job by a major chemical company and another big oil company. The jobs are nearly identical to my current one, but they are paying about $30,000 to $35,000 more than I make now (20% more than I make). While I am likely to take one of the roles, I wonder, am I being underpaid or are these offers higher to try and recruit me away from my current role?

  • I recently got engaged, will be married October 2017. My fiance and I want to start a family right away. My job does not have paid maternity leave. Would it be premature for me to advocate for paid leave? My initial thought process was to figure this out as soon as possible. Maybe I should start looking for another job; researching other companies I noticed that most (all the one's that I saw) require employees to have been employed for a year before being offered paid maternity leave.

    If I could have my way I would stay where I am at and get paid leave.

    I have a positive relationship with my boss and can talk about this with him, however; he isn't the one who ultimately makes this decision, corporate does.

  • I am engaged, will be married October 2017. My fiance and I want to have a family right away. Currently my job does not have paid maternity leave. Is it premature for me to advocate for paid maternity leave? My initial thought was that I need to figure this out now, otherwise maybe I should look for another job ASAP; after some research I noticed that many companies only offer paid leave to employees who have been with the company for a year.

    I have a healthy relationship with my boss and feel comfortable talking to him; however, he isn't the one who makes this decision - corporate does.

  • All women should read the amazing negotiation advice in the book, "Women in Tech: Take your Career to the Next Level" by Tarah Wheeler. I applied the advice in a recent negotiation round and got a 15% bump in salary!

    Anybody have good advice for how to request a raise that's worked?

    Great article here:

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