How women can ask for a raise—and get one

The gender pay gap has narrowed, but women still need to fight for equal pay.

Let’s start with the good news: Over the past several decades, women have made significant progress in terms of their compensation at work. In 1980, it was estimated that women’s median hourly wage was 65% of that for men doing the same work. By 2022, the gap had shrunk to 82%.

Here’s a more sobering way to look at the pay gap narrowing: A woman would still have to work almost three extra months to make what her male counterpart will earn in a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While many women feel workplace culture is becoming more equitable, others face persistent disadvantages. An unequal divide of family responsibilities is still a prevailing factor. An aging population means there are more caregivers, and 61% of these are women, many of whom are also raising or supporting children.

“There is a delicate tug of war between career, kids and aging parents,” says Holly H. Clark, Private Wealth Advisor with Regions Bank. “Prioritizing family and career is a real challenge. And any time women take away from work can impact opportunities to climb the ladder to better positions—and salaries.”

Fortunately, there are methods that can help you make a convincing case for a higher salary. Here is where to start.

Step No. 1: Speak With Colleagues You Trust

While this advice may seem obvious, talking about compensation is still a challenge for many people. “There has been progress, but discussing salaries and money with colleagues and friends is still not an accepted practice, generally,” says Clark. But knowledge really is power in the work environment. “Women have begun empowering other women. The more discussions they have, the more comfortable they become with money. And the more comfortable with money you are, the easier it becomes to ask for more of it.”

Step No. 2: Collect Intelligence

Websites such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed have salary calculators that can help you gather information about industry standards. You may even be able to find data about salaries that are specific to your company. When you negotiate for a higher salary, you can bolster your claim by citing statistics on comparable salaries, while also demonstrating that you’ve done your research.

Your company may also publish pay policies or pay scales for various positions in your company. And some states and localities now require job postings to include salary ranges by law. These can be fast tracks to determining how fairly—or unfairly—you are being paid. You can also use business-focused social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with former colleagues.

“Talking to people you trust can always help you,” says Clark. “If you have a strong relationship with your manager, you can talk to them openly to determine what might be possible.”

Step No. 3: Think—and Act—Early

You don’t have to wait for a stellar performance review to ask for a raise. In fact, it can be helpful to see your argument as a campaign rather than a single ask. “It’s best to plant the seed of a raise early in the year,” Clark says. “Have an open discussion with your manager about specific actions and goals that will need to be met to be considered for a raise. And ask for candid feedback.”

Step No. 4: Quantify Your Accomplishments

Don’t assume that your good work is a matter of the company record. Take time to list your recent accomplishments and use the most concrete measurements possible, such as dollars earned or saved for the company, customers you’ve helped or policies you’ve helped institute. “You need specific examples of wins,” Clark says. “You also should participate in activities that help you stand out to managers and colleagues, and to build relationships and trust.”

Caveat: Don’t frame your arguments in terms of personal matters or by putting your co-workers in an unflattering light. The point is to help people realize your own value, not try to diminish the work of others. Try to keep the conversation positive.

Step No. 5: Practice and Be Confident

Confidence is a must, but so is preparation. “Practicing your message before approaching your boss will help your confidence and ensure your message is direct and professional,” says Clark. “Ask a friend for feedback and keep the focus only on business-related data and subjects.”

Talk to Your Regions Wealth Advisor About:

  1. How you can quantify your accomplishments, and take time to practice making your argument for a raise.
  2. How you can create opportunities to communicate your value and set expectations with your manager.

Interested in talking with a Wealth Advisor but don’t have one?

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