You Don’t Need An Ally. You Need To Get Comfortable Advocating For Yourself.


Studies show that when given the chance, women are as likely as men to negotiate their salary—but that opportunity doesn’t present itself as often for women. Another found that when the possibility of wage negotiation is made explicit, women are just as likely as men to negotiate.

Both studies imply that salary negotiations can only commence when another party- such as a manager or recruiter- initiates a conversation or mentions the pay for an open position is negotiable. The first study went further, mentioning that employers need to be proactive in offering more opportunities for negotiation to women.

Respectfully, I disagree. Women need to be more proactive in finding more opportunities for negotiation with employers.

That’s a bold sentence, I know. If you’re wondering, “is this a call for all women to ‘get your f**king ass up and work?’ I assure you, it is not. We can’t wait for the chance or possibility, we have to take them. Younger women are negotiating more than Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer female employees. In fact, the gender wage gap for women has only closed two cents in the past 20 years, but is nearly nonexistent between men and women is when you compare single childless men and women.

In recent months I’ve seen more and more social media posts sharing how an “ally” helped a woman increase her salary. I recently read a post where a hiring manager was praised for secretly texting compensation information to women during virtual interview rounds. Allies are great, but their support is temporary at best. Unless they’re living with you, researching your spending and saving habits, and performing your job as you, then they’re making an educated guess as to what you bring to a role, and the compensation you deserve.

This is a call to action for working mothers over 35 to not fall asleep at the wheel. As you move up the career ladder and compensation becomes more competitive, the gender pay gap becomes more significant. Compensation data provider PayScale reports that women reach their peak earnings at the age of 44. It’s critical that working mothers advocate for themselves and fine-tune their negotiation skills. The consequences of not being able to has long-term financial impact on not just them, but their families as well.

From candidates to current team members, employers aren’t likely to invite team members to negotiate their pay. Related, not many managers research and proactively take steps to eradicate the motherhood penalty. Does corporate America need to adopt more equitable practices, including salary transparency? Absolutely. Are women perceived as less hirable, less likable, and are less likely to be promoted when they negotiate? Yes. But while we women wait for societal norms to change, we still have to pay bills. So let’s negotiate.

Communicate your value in numbers.

Data has a way of bringing out self-confidence. Leverage that by having all the information you need to field follow-up questions, such as percentages of time or dollars saved, teams impacted, or the size of budgets managed. I encourage my team not to wait until their annual performance review- to support their case for a salary increase, they are expected to keep a quarterly record of wins, accomplishments, and professional development (including special projects, training, and certificates).

Don’t just research industry benchmarks, research the company who keeps your CEO up at night.

It’s your job to know your company’s top competitor, if for no other reason that your own career advancement. Be bold. Research the salary of your comparable role and the benefits offered at said company, and communicate this information during negotiations.

Know the delta between the amount you need to earn and the amount you want to earn.

The delta, or the difference between these two figures, is your wiggle room. Remember nearly everything is up for negotiation. After benefits, perks, a retirement plan or 401K contribution, stock options or a commitment for a future raise are considered, the delta between those two figures could be shorter.

Develop a negotiation strategy.

My favorite negotiation strategy is a psychological trick called contrasting. I, too, research the average salary for the role and then define my desired wage and a comfortable salary. But 12 hours before negotiations, I continuously recite a number astronomically higher than the comfort salary number. When I enter negotiations and repeat the comfort salary number, the contrast effect will make that number seem reasonable to me. I’ve practiced and perfected it along with other key talking points in negotiation pitches. It’s personally helped me negotiate an average 64% salary increase every time I’ve started with a new company. It’s aggressive, but when delivered calmly and self-assuringly, it is quite successful. Contrasting also helps me overcome any feelings of imposter syndrome during negotiations since I, too, am a working mom.

No one has done you a favor by employing you; you were compensated with the expectation to deliver results. If you’ve exceeded those expectations, be self-interested and toot your own horn. Allies are wonderful, but they are not a strategy to secure the higher salary you feel you deserve. No one cares more about your career than you, and your strategy will determine if your family suffers from a significant amount of lost compensation during your working career. A scary thought, but simply put: closed mouths don’t get fed.

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