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The Truth About Salary Negotiation For Black Women

Javacia Harris Bowser  |  August 2, 2021

Black women make 63 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts. Here we offer salary negotiation tips to help Black women get the pay they deserve.

August 3 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, not to be confused with the Equal Pay Day recognized on March 24. That date symbolizes how far into the year white women must work to earn what men earned the previous year. But for Black women, that date is August 3 based on Census data that shows that Black women make 63 cents for every dollar earned by their non-Hispanic white male counterparts. 

Numbers like this make career development expert Kimberly B. Cummings passionate about helping Black women negotiate for the salaries they deserve. 

“As a woman of color, I’ve learned that it’s important to fight fire with fire and not allow feelings to get in the way when it comes to salary negotiation,” Cummings says. 

The process of getting paid the money you feel you’re due begins long before you get the call telling you that you got the job. 

In her new book Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You’ll Love Cummings offers key steps for helping women and people of color negotiate a higher salary. 

Know Your Value

Before your first interview, you need a good sense of what experience and skills you bring to the table, and you need to be ready to convey that to the company you’ve got your eye on. 

“Throughout your entire interview experience you are reinforcing your brand, your impact, and your value,” Cummings says. Stay focused on results and the transformation that – based on your track record — you know you can offer that organization. 

Do Your Homework

Know the market rate for your role and your industry. Career advisor Allison Cheston says you need to know what the job pays both at the company you’re interviewing with and its competitors. You can use sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com to start your research. Use this information to help set your salary expectations before the application and interview process begin. 

“You want to present a range, with your bottom number just under the top of the range, to provide you negotiating room later on while keeping your range in the running,” Cheston says. “For example, if Glassdoor states that the salary for this role at this organization is $65K to $75K, you want your range to be $72K to $85K.”

If you later realize the salary range you stated on your application was on the low side, don’t fret. 

You can indicate that given your level of experience, now that you know more about the job, you believe you should be paid at the upper end of the range, or even above it if that seems appropriate,” Cheston says. “Salary negotiations are always a bit of a dance.”

Focus On Facts, Not Feelings

Never accept an offer immediately. “Emotions are high and you’re super excited. So, it is so easy to just say yes,” Cummings says. But don’t. “It’s important to settle and give yourself time so you don’t have a gut reaction.”

Take time to get more details about the offer including benefits, retirement packages, vacation time and even parking. In other words, stay focused on the facts about the offer, not the feelings that come with hearing it. And staying centered on the facts about your experience and expertise will also help you in the negotiation process. 

“You’re not trying to swindle these companies,” Cummings says. It’s not about getting companies to overpay you. It’s about equitable pay based upon your transformation, impact, and value.”

Confidence Pays

Cummings’ top piece of advice for salary negotiation is to be confident.

“You have to have confidence in your experiences, skills, impact and value so that you can walk into that conversation strong,” she says. “You should have confidence because you’re stating facts.”

And stop worrying about looking like a diva. “Many times, we’re looking at salary negotiation thinking we’re asking for too much or that it would be a favor for the organization to pay us what we want to get paid, but it’s not a favor,” Cummings says. “You’re doing a job for the company and in exchange they’re paying you a salary that is commensurate with that job.”

Cheston believes that right now the scales are tipped in the favor of all job seekers, but especially women and people of color.  “In states with high vaccination rates, many people are returning to the office and hiring is brisk, even where that is not the case,” Cheston says. Employers are trying to fill vacant positions quickly. 

Furthermore, many companies are seeking a more diverse workforce. “There is much greater focus than ever before on hiring women and people of color,” Cheston says. “It is an understood and clear goal at any enlightened company that the mandate is to find as many qualified candidates as possible to better represent them. And in such a competitive job market, companies should be challenged to pay appropriately.”

To boost your confidence, Cummings recommends keeping a “happy folder” of all your important workplace wins. And if necessary, phone a friend. 

They say no one can hype you up like a Black woman,” Cummings says. “We hype up strangers on the street. So, if you need to call your friend to hype you up, have her hype you up. The same way she hypes you up about your outfit when you’re going out to brunch, have her hype you up about how amazing you are in the workplace.”

And don’t be afraid to push. “It’s important to remember that when a company wants to hire you, you are in your most powerful position you will ever be with them,” Cheston says. “You haven’t made any mistakes yet and your perceived value is at an all-time high.”

Your prospective employer should respect you for advocating for yourself. Negotiating your salary should never cause you to lose an opportunity.  “If that ever happens you can just say ‘Good riddance,’ as you would not want to work for them anyway,” Cheston says. 

When To Walk Away

There comes a time in the salary negotiation process when you must look at what’s being offered, and you’ve gotta take it or leave it. 

If the offer is well below what you know you should be paid and what the market pays and/or the job doesn’t align with your career strategy – move on. “Every move really needs to be your next best move,” Cummings says. “If there is nothing there that you know is also going to benefit you, it’s time to walk away.”

Of course there are exceptions to these rules. If you lost your job due to the pandemic or other reasons and you need a paycheck to take care of yourself and your family, take the job and keep looking for a better opportunity. 

The rules can also be a bit different for entry level jobs. “With entry-level jobs, some companies have a non-negotiable policy,” Cheston explains. “If you find this to be the case, ask whether they’re willing to review you after six months, or see if you can be eligible for a bonus reflecting the fulfillment of certain criteria.”

If you’re in a position to negotiate – do it! Armed with facts about the market rate for your position and facts about what you bring to the company, stand in confidence and ask for what you deserve. And when it comes to salary negotiation, the more you do it the easier it gets, Cummings says. 

“This is your career that you are building,” Cummings adds. “The power is not only in the company’s hands; it’s in your hands, too.”

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