Chances are, you’ve already know that women don’t earn as much as their male counterparts in the workforce. Still troubling every time we hear about it—but no longer shocking.
However, there’s a less-known pay statistic that’s worth acknowledging in the same breath. According to a study conducted by Glassdoor, 68% of women report they didn’t negotiate their salary, compared with 52% of men. Of those who did negotiate, significantly fewer women (4%) than men (15%) ended up getting more money.
So, what do you do if you find out you’re being underpaid at work? And, to make matters worse, what do you do if you find out you’re being paid less than Joe in accounting for doing the same job? Situations like this are extremely rough (and nuanced and specific to your circumstances), but in honor of #EqualPayDay, we’ve rounded up some guidance that could help. Ahead, a few tips on how you can work through your rage and get on your way to earning what you deserve.
No one wants to learn that they could be earning significantly more for the work they’ve been doing. If there’s ever a time to call up someone from your inner circle so you can scream and/or cry in frustration, this is it. When Britt Larson, a director at a political marketing communication firm in Lake City, Utah, learned she was making less than her predecessor at a previous job, it was hard not to take it personally. “It just destroyed me for weeks,” Larson said. While she was eventually able to work through the blow of the news, she wishes she had been able to move from anger to action earlier.
“It’s ok to use your emotions to fuel you and motivate you,” says Heather Mills, the founder of Women Who Ask and an attorney who’s worked on employment discrimination cases. But, after your done expressing your rage, just make to take a breath so you can keep a cool head during the actual negotiation (more on that later).
Before you go storming into your boss’ office, be sure to get your receipts in order. It’ll help you to not only understand what the pay discrepancy actually is, but it’ll make it difficult for your boss to argue with you because, well, #facts. For starters, Larson suggests, consider where you got your information from and how reliable it is. Is it a rumor you can trace back to a gossipy coworker? Or have you seen it in writing or heard it from your most trusted office confidante? Don’t just rely on job titles, either, as duties can vary from employee to employee and factors like whether you supervise another team member can impact compensation.
In addition to doing research on sites like PayScale and Glassdoor to get a sense of the market value for someone with your skills, you can also utilize HR, Mills says. Large companies often have a breakdown of pay scales and should be able to tell you whether you land on the low or high end of the spectrum within the company. Once you have that info, you’ll be better able to determine whether you’re asking to move from one pay bracket to another or if the gap can be closed with an in-bracket increase.
It might be difficult to do at first, but you’ll be at an advantage if you consider the situation from the company’s perspective. Which, to put it bluntly, means you that if the last few months haven’t been your best, then it’s not the ideal time to ask for more. Or, if you were recently hired and “you’re just figuring out your job when you find out your male coworker is making a lot more money, it might not be time to ask,” Larson says.
If, however, you’ve been kicking ass in your job and taking on new responsibilities with proven results, re-examine the description for the job you were initially hired for. Then, go ahead and write a new one for what you do today. If your job has drastically changed, you have a case to make for a raise.
If you’re lucky enough to have regular check-ins with your supervisor, then a simple “I’d like to talk about compensation during this week’s meeting” will do the trick. Otherwise, give your boss a head’s up and put some time on the calendar to discuss the subject. “Pay transparency has become more of the norm, but it’s still a hush-hush conversation,” Mills says. When people are ambushed, they can become defensive. Avoid getting a flustered response or a brush-off from your manager by giving advance notice and allowing them to show up prepared as well.
No matter how tempting the idea might be, you don’t want to go in there with guns blazing. Instead, try a direct but non-aggressive opener like, “I’ve learned some information about compensation and I’d like to discuss.” Then, when making your case, be sure to avoid commentary about coworkers or rumors, warns Eileen Scully, author of the forthcoming book, In the Company of Men: How Women can Succeed in a World Built Without Them.
Scully offers the following script for broaching the subject with your boss:
“In my last review, you told me that I had made significant progress [doing x and y]. My reviews from clients and peers have always reflected strong performance and potential. I’m only making [x], and I recently learned that one of my teammates is at [y]. We started around the same time, in the same role. How can you and I work together to bring my salary closer to where I should be?”
Then, stop talking. Let your manager process what you’ve said and respond in turn.
Sometimes, when you ask for a raise, supervisors will try to kick the can down the road by saying that right now is not a good time for the company or that there’s nothing in the budget. This is your opportunity to present a follow-up plan. Ask whether you can have another performance review in a few months. You might not leave with more money in your account, but you’ll have a game plan for what to expect. Or, as Larson says, “just don’t let the conversation die.”
Finally, make it a habit to keep a written log of your conversations for future reference. They’ll not only help you to keep an accurate timeline, but, in the off-chance that you do end up having a case for discrimination, you’ll have the evidence you need.