women negotiating salary

Why Don’t More Women Negotiate? 5 Strategies for Aiming Higher in Your Career


A lot of ink has been spent on articles that explore women negotiating salary or position. Generally speaking, women are less likely than men to assertively negotiate their salary, ask for a raise, or even apply for a higher position.

This is what we often see at BVOH Search & Consulting: Let’s say, for example, we have a job listing that asks for 12 to 15 years of relevant experience. A man who has 10 years of experience will likely see that and think, “Close enough, I’m sure I can do it.” However, a woman with 10 years will be more likely to cross it off her list, thinking she just doesn’t have enough experience. 

Men are more likely to try for a wider range of jobs, whereas women are more likely to only apply for a job if they check every box. Whether this is because of a lack of confidence or strictly adhering to perceived rules, this leads to women self-selecting themselves out of opportunities.

As recruiters, seeing this phenomenon makes us think about how we write up job descriptions — we may even take out things like requirements for years of experience for this very reason. But we also encourage women to aim higher in their job search, and to negotiate more often for their salary and career track.

5 Strategies for Negotiating Your Salary or Position

When it comes to assessing job descriptions, keep in mind that a job description is a wish list; the hiring manager knows they might not get everything on the list, but it’s a good idea of what they’re looking for. 

Don’t oversell yourself, and don’t claim experience that you don’t have, but don’t undersell yourself, either! If you make an honest assessment and think you have the skills to do a job, go ahead and put your hand up. It never hurts to try, and the worst that can happen is they say no.

Ask for what you want.

That principle is also true when it comes to salary negotiations: Ask for what you want. Men are more likely to shoot for the moon. Women tend to stay close to what they’re currently making, and they sometimes feel bad about asking for more. One important thing to keep in mind is that in California, employers can no longer ask for a current salary. This is partly to address the gender wage gap. (A few other states have similar laws, either in effect or in the pipeline.)

“If you make an honest assessment and think you have the skills to do a job, go ahead and put your hand up. It never hurts to try.”

When you sit down to discuss salary or a raise, just make your ask, and then be quiet. If there is a little uncomfortable silence, that’s OK. Don’t feel you need to justify what you’re asking for, and don’t apologize for anything.

Embrace the silence.

People sometimes use too many words when they feel uncomfortable. If you continue to talk, sometimes your message can get muddied, and you may start to justify, make excuses, or apologize. Also, if you keep talking, you give the other person a chance to think of reasons to say no, and you may make statements that they can rebut. Just make your ask, and then stop.

Show off your negotiation skills.

Be mindful that in finance and accounting, people are often expected to negotiate on behalf of the company. Not only do hiring managers expect a candidate to negotiate their salary, but also, your salary negotiation will be the first time the company sees you in that role. If you can’t negotiate for yourself, they may not believe you will be able to negotiate for the company. (However, at least according to one study, women often do a much better job negotiating for others than they do for themselves.)

Focus on your efficiency.

Sometimes women feel bad about asking for more because their work situation looks different. They may need to leave at 4:30 p.m. every day to pick up their kids, but they may also get online later and work from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. from home. Don’t worry about asking for more if you’re putting in the hours, even if they’re different hours. 

As a mom, I have found that I may not actually put in as many hours as I used to, but it’s because I have found ways to be more efficient. I am still putting in plenty of hours and adding a great deal of value to my company. I still deserve good compensation.

Get a pep talk.

Finally, if you have an upcoming negotiation, don’t be afraid to lean on your people. Call a good friend or an expert to give you a pep talk, if you feel the need. Practice your pitch, or just talk through your situation with them, perhaps over a cup of coffee.

“When it comes to negotiating salary, a promotion, or a raise, the most important thing to remember is that you have to ask. Nobody else is going to do it for you.”

Nobody Else Is Going to Do It For You

Not long ago, a friend of mine reached out for my advice about asking for a promotion. She has been with a company for eight years, and she’s a senior manager who was ready to be a director, but she was unsure of how to go about the whole conversation of asking for the new title. 

I gave her a pep talk and pointed out that she had been there for a long time and been given more and more responsibility, and why shouldn’t she get that new title? A few weeks later, she emailed and said, “Did you notice my new title at the bottom of the email?” 

She had gotten the new title — in large part because she went in and asked for it.

When it comes to women negotiating salary, a promotion, or a raise, the most important thing to remember is that you have to ask. You cannot be passive; you cannot wait for your manager or your colleagues to notice all the great work you’ve been doing. You have to put your hand up, and you have to ask for it. Nobody else is going to do it for you.