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How women can negotiate salary and benefits with confidence

To have a successful career, women (and men) need solid negotiation skills. We negotiate every day with our teams and clients on ideas, projects, deadlines, contracts and more. Asking for a higher salary can be intimidating, but it’s necessary to advance your career and support wage growth overall.

Two separate surveys from Robert Half found that nearly half of men and women feel they are underpaid. Yet only 45% of women said they tried to negotiate higher pay in their last job offer, compared to 68% of men.

There are many hesitations people may have when it comes to negotiating salary or asking for a raise, like the fear of rejection, lack of preparation or not knowing the right approach. And in some cases, women are concerned they will be perceived negatively when they are direct and persistent.

Yes, negotiating can be nerve-wracking, but my advice is to believe in the value you bring to an organization. It’s unlikely that you’ll regret asking for higher pay, and it’s a perfect way to demonstrate that you’re a self-assured professional.

If you’re reluctant to ask for more money, preparing a thorough and fact-based business case can help remove emotion and better prepare you for the discussion. Here are some essential steps to requesting higher pay with confidence and clarity.

1. Do your homework before negotiating

Your first step is to do some research. What is the market rate for your position in your area? What are other companies offering their employees in terms of salary, benefits and perks? Gather information from a variety of resources, like Robert Half’s Salary Guides, to share with your manager or potential employer.

Look at the cost of living in your area, your commute and, most importantly, your career path. Once you’ve compiled all this information, decide on a number that you’d like to present to the employer. It should be reasonable, but it should also be a bit higher than what you really desire.

2. Prepare a business case

Making a strong business case can really show your employer how valuable you are to the organization. Create a list of your recent successful projects and positive feedback you’ve received as evidence. If you can articulate a return on investment for the company in terms of revenue, cost savings, productivity gains or improvement in customer experience, even better. Simply put, be bold in promoting your accomplishments.

3. Time it appropriately

Of course, the best time for a job candidate to negotiate salary is right after they receive a job offer. For an employee, the timing is a bit trickier. The ideal moment to ask is soon after completing a successful project or receiving great feedback from a leader.

Avoid asking when your team or company is struggling, and don’t surprise your manager with the request and expect an immediate response. Rather, during a one-on-one meeting, mention that you would like to find a time to discuss your latest accomplishments and career goals, including compensation, and try to schedule a meeting within a week or so.

4. Communicate confidently

When you meet with your manager or potential employer, demonstrate confidence and poise throughout the discussion. Remember, this isn’t a demand; it is a strong request, and your research and business case will support your proposal.

After highlighting your recent achievements and unique skills you bring to the team, propose the number you’d like and expect to negotiate before landing on a final figure. (This is why you added a bit extra to your anticipated salary in the first step.)

5. Have a backup plan

If the conversation doesn’t go your way, don’t be discouraged. Before the meeting, prepare for a possible “no” by considering other perks or benefits you can negotiate. Would you be satisfied with a few more vacation days or a flexible work schedule? You can also request a follow-up meeting to see if a raise would be possible at a future time.

Learning to negotiate is crucial career advice for women to advance their earning potential and professional success. Avoiding salary negotiations can hold you back in your career, so take time to prepare for these conversations and build your confidence.

Louisa Waldman is the regional vice president for Robert Half. In this role, she oversees operations for the company’s OfficeTeam, Accountemps, Robert Half Finance and Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources divisions. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest professional staffing firm with more than 300 locations worldwide including Boise, Idaho. For more information, visit www.roberthalf.com/id-boise.

About Louisa Waldman