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What You Need To Know About How To Ask For A Raise As A Woman

Kathryn Tuggle  |  May 30, 2024

Help put an end to the gender pay gap and know your worth when you're on the job hunt. Here's how to ask for a raise as a woman.

We wish more than anything that women earned the same amount of money as men for the same jobs. Today, women make just 84 percent of what men do, and that gap is wider for women of color. Mothers earn 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Women with bachelor’s degrees get 26% less than their male counterparts who have the same degree. At this rate, the global gender gap won’t close for another 136 years, according to the World Economic Forum. These statistics are not only disheartening, they’re enraging. Here’s how to ask for a raise as a woman so you can help close the gender pay gap for you and those who will come after you’re gone. 

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This Starts With Each One Of Us

It’s advice we’ve all heard before: Ask for a raise.  

Perhaps you’re sick of hearing it. Maybe you’ve tried and were denied. We know that’s not a good feeling. But the truth is, nearly a third of us still need a reminder that it’s time to broach the subject. According to a Equal Pay Day study released today from Credit Karma, 31% of women say they still don’t feel comfortable asking their employer for a raise. Two-thirds of women say their salary is holding them back from reaching their financial goals, including paying off debt and saving for retirement. More than one-third said their low salaries were preventing them from being able to afford necessities like rent.

Yes, it’s time to ask for more money. And when you make your request, it may feel like an insignificant step towards women’s progress overall. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. When one of us asks for more, there’s a ripple effect that happens that can spark change for millions of women who will walk our same path in the months and years to come. 

“Because the gender pay gap is a societal issue, we expect that one day, ‘someone else’ is going to fix it for us,”explains Haley Sacks, the financial educator known as Mrs. Dow Jones. “It’s like if a street lamp were broken, we wouldn’t go get a ladder, we would assume the city would take care of it. We’d say, ‘Oh, they’re working on it.’ But all the research around equal pay comes down to the power of the individual. It will only be solved by individuals closing their own gaps. When you ask for a raise as a woman, not only are you getting more, you’re helping to promote financial equality for everyone.” 

READ MORE: Why It Costs $300k+ More To Be A Woman Than A Man

Ask For Pay Transparency — Not Just A Raise 

Asking for a raise is great. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there.

“But you can’t just ask for a raise,” says Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer and consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “You have to ask for pay transparency at the corporate level. It’s not an either/or proposition.” 

If your company says they base their salaries on data, it’s okay to ask specific details.

“What surveys are you using? What companies are you looking to for salary data, and what size are they?” McCreary asks. “If your manager can’t immediately explain why one person makes significantly more than another, that’s a problem. So don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation on how they arrived at their salary ranges.” 

Keep A Track Record Of Your Accomplishments and Tasks

“Women are more likely than men to believe that our work should speak for itself,” McCreary says. “If we’re consistently doing good work, then we don’t feel like we need to ask for more money. But our managers don’t always see all of the things we’re doing.”

This is why women need to start making a list of our accomplishments. This can be something you send your boss every quarter. You can also keep in a spreadsheet or other document until it’s time for a sit-down or formal review with your manager

“You have to keep that record, because when you do so much, it’s easy to get amnesia about the impact you’ve had,” McCreary says. “Make sure you highlight the value you bring. Don’t just put together a list of things you did, rather, describe exactly how those things moved the needle and impacted your company.” 

“In any negotiation, both sides need to feel like they are winning, which is why you need to go in with your list of accomplishments and wins so you can really demonstrate your impact,” Sacks says. And when you highlight your value-add, this gives your manager the ammunition they need to advocate for you. Too often, we assume that our managers can just hand us a raise — but it doesn’t always work that way. If your manager wants to pay you more, they often have to take the request to their manager, then onto HR. 

And if you aren’t sure who makes these decisions at your company, it’s time to find out. Who has the final say on pay decisions at your company? What factors determine who qualifies for more? If you only have a once-a-year opportunity to secure a change in pay, be diligent about documenting your accomplishments

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Find Out What Your Company Really Values, Then Ask For More Opportunities

Before you approach your boss to ask for a raise, you should understand what your company values in terms of impact and results. “Are they more focused on customer acquisition? Growing revenue in a specific channel? Bringing traffic back to the website?” McCreary says. “You need to make sure you align yourself with projects that will allow you to contribute to those things, and ask for those opportunities.”

Make it your goal to ensure that your name gets on the high-profile, needle-moving projects.

“At far too many companies, women aren’t given an opportunity to do things that have the broadest impact,” McCreary says. “What are the projects you should be tackling so that you can be on a path to a promotion, a raise, or having your work recognized more?” 

The number one question she recommends asking is: “What can I be doing in order to move up more quickly, and be rewarded more quickly at this company?” 

Hold Nothing Back & Don’t Be Afraid Of Confrontation 

Repeat after McCreary: “I don’t think you’re valuing me in the same way you’re valuing my male peers.”  

If you have evidence that you’re being underpaid, it’s time to say it. As soon as you notice a discrepancy, speak up. 

“Women often have a ‘team first,’ ‘company first’ attitude, and we don’t push as hard as we should,” McCreary says. “The irony is that women tend to care more about everyone else around them, which is the exact reason why they should be valued more and rewarded more.”

Even if you don’t have evidence that a male colleague gets paid more for the same job, it’s important to be unwavering in your request to earn more. Try something like this from McCreary:

Pay is important to me from a recognition standpoint and an equity standpoint. And how I’m paid is an important way of defining how I’m valued,  and I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to optimize that.” 

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Bring Your A-Game To The Negotiation Table 

Do your research before you go into a salary negotiation.”

It’s sound advice, but sometimes, no one at your company is talking. And you have zero clue if compensation is fair or not. (Glassdoor and Payscale can’t tell us everything). What should you do if your coworkers won’t talk?

It’s time to connect with people in your industry. Head to LinkedIn and try to open up a conversation with someone you’re friendly with who has a role similar to yours, Sacks advises.

“There are also friendly money-transparent groups with amazing people who want to help,” Sacks says. “You can go in there, write your query, and see what happens.”

Consider The Three Comma Club from Sacks or join our HerMoney group. Both of these are private Facebook groups, run by women, for women. 

Once you’ve got those numbers in hand, it’s time to practice.

“Run through it so many times until your brain creates those pathways that will make it easy for you to find your words, so it’s not such a tough moment,” Sacks says. “You’re strengthening that money-talking muscle. And you’ve gotta work that muscle out before you go run a marathon.”

While inflation has been difficult for all of us to stomach, it has nothing to do with compensation. You’re going to get a raise based on merit, or due to supply and demand.

“Right now there is a short supply of workers, but a lot of demand,” McCreary says. “If you want more money, talk about the impact you’ve made. Don’t talk about inflation. Tell them that you know you’re an impact player, and you want to be recognized as such in your paycheck, too.” 

READ MORE: Sallie Krawcheck Is Changing The Money Messages We Send To Women

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