3 Reasons Why You Should Negotiate Your Salary

March 20, 2014

My first job out of college was a public policy fellowship at a nonprofit in D.C. Because it was a fellowship, the salary was not negotiable (we were all making the same amount). But my first week on the job, I found out from one of the male fellows that he had tried to negotiate his salary.

When he said that, I was shocked. “Of course the salary wasn’t negotiable,” I said to him. “It’s a fellowship. Why would you even ask?” And he responded, “You always ask for more.” I looked around and saw the other male fellows nodding their heads. Meanwhile, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me to negotiate my salary.

Research shows I’m not the only woman who’s missed that opportunity to negotiate in my career. In Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change, author Linda Babcock writes that 46 percent of men say they always negotiate their salary, while only 30 percent of women say the same thing. Salary negotiation is key for ensuring your own economic security and helping to close the gender pay gap. AAUW’s research shows that just one year out of college, men typically earn 7 percent more than women, even after controlling for factors known to affect earnings such as occupation, major, hours worked, geographic region, and more. If the apples-to-apples comparison above isn’t enough to convince you, here are three quick reasons why you should negotiate your next salary:

1.       Because a paycheck is more than just a paycheck.

Yes, the size of your paycheck affects how much you can afford to spend at the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, and on a number of other important day-to-day purchases (let’s not forget the cost of rent). But your take-home pay isn’t the only consideration. Your starting salary becomes the basis for future raises — so if you start out at a lower level because you don’t negotiate your salary, then you’ve likely set yourself up to have a smaller salary down the line even if all the employees in your office receive the same 6 percent raise.

2.       Because once you’re retired, you’ll wish you had negotiated that salary.

I’m in my mid-20s, so I know there are probably some millennials and even mid-career ladies who are asking themselves, Why does that matter? I’m years away from retirement! I’m telling you, it does matter — and if you don’t believe me, take it from fair pay icon Lilly Ledbetter (the woman for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named). Lilly, now 75, is struggling to make ends meet on pension and Social Security benefits that are lower than she deserves because she was making 40 percent less than her male colleagues over a nearly 20-year career at Goodyear. Although the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act fixed the wrong-headed Supreme Court decision in Lilly’s case, it doesn’t fix the years of pay discrimination she faced and the effects that she still lives with today.

3.      Because you’re worth it!

Your employer has decided to hire you because you can do the job and your skills have value — you deserve to be paid for that value! It’s plain and simple: Hard work deserves fair pay. You should always make sure that the salary you are being offered fairly compensates you for your work and enables you to make ends meet, given your budget and costs of living. And if the first offer doesn’t make the cut, then you should ask for more.
Of course, those aren’t the only reasons to negotiate your salary. Moreover, you’ll want to carefully plan out a strategy for the negotiation and use the right tactics. If you’re on a college campus, search for a Start Smart workshop near you to learn how to negotiate your salary.

No matter where you are in your career, you can help make salary negotiation and the gender pay gap part of the broader conversation about equity — and now is the perfect time to do it! Every year we celebrate Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. Thanks to the gender pay gap, it takes women an extra three months of wages to make up that 23-cent difference. Equal Pay Day 2014 will fall on Tuesday, April 8, so mark your calendar and keep watching the AAUW blog and social media channels to find out what you can to help close the gender pay gap!


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By:   |   March 20, 2014


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