Compliance Week’s recent “Inside the Mind of the CCO” survey confirmed what has been reported for years: Women are paid less than men for doing the same work (17 percent so, according to this year’s poll of 120 compliance officers in the top job).
Among the driving factors for this disparity cited in a recent Wall Street Journal report are: penalties for professionals who interrupt their careers for children or elder care; a tendency for women to choose lower-paying occupations, occupational specialties, and different work schedules; women being less likely to ask for more pay; and inherent bias—salary differences that cannot be accounted for after auditing logical compensable factors such as education, experience, and job performance. Some companies are taking action to identify and fix pay equity, but many lag behind.
Regardless of your situation, don’t let these factors dissuade you from negotiating what you’re worth. Whether you are asking for a pay raise in your current role or negotiating compensation in a new role, here are my top suggestions to help ensure you are paid equitably for the work you do and value you bring to your organization:
1. Know the market. Keeping yourself informed about the market range for your job should be part of managing your career. Just as you should watch the stock market to ensure good investment performance, you should make it a habit to regularly collect salary information so you have it when you need it.
Ways you can collect information include reading industry surveys, researching salary sources online, and/or reaching out to recruiters and compliance colleagues for more information on their compensation.
This last one is getting easier than you think—the old taboos are fast disappearing. Pay transparency is on the rise, and it’s much more acceptable to ask.
Remember, fair or not, people are only going to fight for you if they like you. You are setting the tone for the future and laying a foundation for your relationship with your boss and your reputation with the organization.
2. Learn your company’s compensation practices. Every organization has a pay philosophy, whether they share it or not. Some pay top-of-market, while others consider themselves “value players” and pay average or even below-market as part of their cost model. Some have firm salary caps that cannot be negotiated, but they may be flexible on work schedule, paid time off, leadership coaching programs, and other benefits. Your task is to find out how each of those factors influence the value of your overall package. The more you can learn about the company’s restraints, the more likely you can craft a proposal that suits your needs.
3. Map out your salary negotiation. Women say they often feel a lack of confidence in negotiating well. The Harvard Business Review reports studies have shown women often suffer backlash for initiating negotiations, as they can be perceived as pushy and unlikeable. To overcome this perception, the authors of the HBR report advise women to balance warmth and assertiveness in negotiations.
To ensure warmth, enlist empathy as your friend. Consider the situation from the employer’s perspective. Have they recently had layoffs? How long did it take for your boss to get promoted? Demonstrate an understanding of the other person’s needs first. Then balance this empathy with self-advocacy. Know what your ideal outcome is and prepare to explain that to your employer.
In one salary negotiation for an executive role a few years ago, for example, I negotiated 30 percent more than my boss’s original base pay offer in significant part because I had four data points for my same role in my geography (see point No. 1 above). Of note, keeping with the spirit of compromise, I agreed to a lower bonus percent, which I could tell was important to keeping the relationship on a good footing.
4. Practice, practice, practice. In any negotiation, you have the most bargaining power in that first conversation. Women often face more resistance in negotiations than men, so plan for some pushback. Prepare for potential objections by mapping these out in advance and what your response will be. Craft talking points and practice. (A bonus in a virtual environment: You can have your notes at your side without anyone knowing). And if you don’t get what you are asking for, know your fallback position.
If you don’t get what you want the first time, don’t view the obstacle as a failure. Instead, ask what is possible. Can you have a salary review in one year? What are average increases? Get as much information as you can now for your next negotiation. The goal is to be clear on your goals and share those, so that even if you don’t get exactly what you are asking for now, you are laying the groundwork for the future.
5. Stay in control of your emotions. Whether you are anxious about asking for a raise or are harboring pent-up resentment about your current salary, it’s important to be aware of your feelings so you can get them under control before meeting with decision makers. Anticipate how these could come up in the negotiation, and plan to take a pause and reboot if they surface. If you can distance yourself from the discussion and view it more objectively as a transaction about money rather than a personal statement of your worth or respect, you will likely feel more control over your emotions.
As a final note, remember that even though they may not show it, your boss (or hiring manager) is usually anxious, too. This is an opportunity for you to be a leader and demonstrate gravitas in what is often an uncomfortable situation for people on both sides of the table. Remember, fair or not, people are only going to fight for you if they like you. You are setting the tone for the future and laying a foundation for your relationship with your boss and your reputation with the organization.