Throughout history, women have been trailblazers, pioneering the way in fields like science, entertainment and politics. Yet, the fight continues for equal opportunities.
According to 2019 data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn 82.5% of the amount their male counterparts make. And a college education didn’t even the gap. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women with a Bachelor’s degree earn 74 cents for every dollar men make, and the difference between men’s and women’s earnings widens with more education.
If you find out your male coworkers make more than you, you might feel lost and discouraged. But your hard work deserves recognition. Here are tips on how to approach your supervisor and ask for a raise.
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To best understand the steps that should be taken before having a tough conversation about a potential raise, we spoke with Diane Gottsman, a nationally renowned etiquette expert whose work has been featured on the “Today” show, CNN and CBS Sunday Morning. Gottsman is the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
After finding out your male coworkers make more than you, you may feel inadequate or unqualified. It’s OK to feel saddened by the news, but don’t keep that mindset. “Although it’s unfortunate, it is not uncommon for employees to get paid on different pay scales,” Gottsman said. “Both men and women should strive to do their best and to be proactive.”
In the heat of the moment, you might feel tempted to storm the office and demand to know everyone’s salary while disclosing your own. But according to Gottsman, the best way to work toward a solution is to keep this new information to yourself and to not cross any boundaries. “Take steps without acting emotionally,” she said. “If you found out someone is making more money, it may have been in a conversation not appropriate for the lunchroom. Don’t threaten to quit, don’t tell other peers and don’t start a personal inquiry of other coworkers’ income. Go to someone who can make a difference: Your boss.”
Learning you make less money than your male coworkers might lead you to wonder if you’re a lone wolf or if you’re all being scammed. Don’t rush to hold a meeting with your female coworkers. In fact, unless they’re a professional coach or a trusted confidant, Gottsman recommends not spreading your newfound information. “Your goal is getting the salary you are worth, not stirring the pot,” she said. “When possible, it’s best to keep everyone out of it and go directly to your boss unless you have a career coach or a mentor you rely on for business advice that you can run some ideas by.”
Shoot an email to your supervisor asking to put time on the calendar for a one-on-one conversation. Once your meeting time is approved, it’s time to plan and prepare the information you’ll need to prove your case. “Show your value,” Gottsman said. “Be ready to show evidence of your success and how it has benefited the company.”
While gathering the information you’ll need to prove why you deserve a raise — like accomplished goals and daily contributions to company growth — research your industry and what professionals in a similar role are earning. “Take into consideration your experience, tenure of service and contributions to the company,” Gottsman said. “And don’t forget to consider the job market in your city.” Where you live plays a part in what you earn.
When you finally sit down with your supervisor, emotions might come bubbling up. But no matter how nervous you feel, keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand: earning a raise. “The conversation needs to stay directed on you and your value, not your coworkers’ paychecks,” Gottsman said.
Disclosing your newly found information with your supervisor can feel uncomfortable. But the only way to get at the issue is to tackle it head-on and to be honest about the salary details you have. “You can be honest without coming across as confrontational,” Gottsman said. “Each person brings something different to the table, so it’s important to be prepared to point out your value and how you can continue to benefit the team.”
If things go perfectly, your supervisor will reason with you and adjust your pay to reflect what you feel you should be earning. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and your manager might disagree with your argument or deny your request. You should be prepared to hear either answer. And if you are told “no,” ask follow-up questions. “If (a raise) is not in the cards, ask what needs to happen in order to achieve your financial requirements,” Gottsman said. “Ask for specifics about how you can achieve your income goals.”
In the case that you don’t receive the raise you want, Gottsman recommends asking for other benefits that work in your favor. “There may be other perks (your manager) would consider,” Gottsman said. “Come up with your own list of options — like working half-days on Fridays, or, if your industry allots, leaving early a couple of days a week to make cold calls on potential clients.”
Transitioning from one job to the next can be a strenuous process, but if you are feeling burnt out or unappreciated, it might be time for you to pursue an opportunity elsewhere. If you do decide to leave, Gottsman recommends handling the situation thoughtfully and methodically. “If you have spoken with your boss and have not received the end result you are comfortable with, don’t immediately quit,” Gottsman said. “You still have to pay your bills and uphold your financial responsibilities. You can start looking for another job, but don’t leave the one you have without a backup plan.” For more tips on how to get the pay you deserve, here’s how to negotiate a salary.
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