I recently wrote about Equal Pay and the root issues surrounding inequality in the U.S job market. As promised, here are some suggestions on how to negotiate your salary.  This isn’t the typical ten step list, this is intended to get you in the right mindset: knowledgeable, confident and ready for action.

To write this, I went straight to an HR expert I know: Mikaela Kiner has been hiring and negotiating people’s salaries for two decades and now runs her own consulting firm, UniquelyHRWhen I suggested we need both a social and personal approach to supporting women in their salary negotiation she agreed with me completely. So here you go, the initial Nav.it steps to improve your financial knowledge, self-esteem and THEN be able to negotiate your salaries with ease:

a) Women need to normalize the conversation about finances among ourselves.

There are many successful, seemingly financially stable women in the world, and we need to open conversations with them about how they manage their personal finances. For example, I don’t really care if Oprah wears Chanel, but I do care if she took a high-risk approach to her retirement investments when she was young. Did/does she use a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and was s/he fee-based or fee-only? What does she think about real estate investments in high price urban areas? Oprah may or may not be an expert on these subjects, but it doesn’t matter. We learn from hearing other successful women’s perspectives and opinions and then integrating them into our own life goals, realities and dreams. From an Equal Pay perspective, understanding finances and discussing them in a private/friendly setting gives us better vocabulary and financial-savvy to discuss them in a professional setting.

We don’t need proximity to highly visible women either. Step one for your salary negotiation prep is to talk to other women about money. If you feel comfortable with a female colleague in your industry, ask how she negotiated her salary her salary and what she was looking for in an employment package. You don’t need the details, you just need to understand what she was looking for. We learn from talking to each other. And don’t kid yourself, the guys sure do. I’m generalizing, but what do you think they’re talking about when they do guy things? Yes, probably us, but have we not all heard the stereotype that a large percentage of the ‘deals’ made in the U.S. are on the golf course? It’s our turn, ladies. My dream is to be in a spa some day and overhear women talking about how they negotiated a high base salary and good commission rate, or how their investment portfolios are doing in comparison to their retirement funds.

b) We need to understand how recruiting and HR management works.

It has been so refreshing to hear Mikaela’s perspective on HR recruitment and how to negotiate your salary. Her advice, as someone who has hired and recruited thousands of people at all levels of the job market is consistent: always, always negotiate.  If an employer is providing their best offer and doesn’t want to negotiate, they will say that upfront. You need to be realistic about your experience, the company, and what is being offered, but still, there is always room to negotiate. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no and you are left with a choice to take the job as is or keep looking for a better deal. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it?

The essential point is that you can’t negotiate if you don’t understand the market, your value as an employee, and the package you are offered. This means doing your homework on what a healthy salary/benefits package looks like for your experience, your job market and the industry. Talk to others in your field, look up salary benefits for that job title, or peruse websites dedicated to providing salary information that can provide you a basic understanding of where you should start.

c) Understand your employment package to negotiate your salary in a right way

Negotiating your salary is about finding a compromise between the company’s budget and a salary/benefits package that makes you feel well-compensated for the time and effort you put into making that company successful. Your entire package is important to understand: What are the 401K options? Will the company match your 401K contribution? 401Ks are an important part of wealth generation, so if you don’t understand them, learn up. Bottomline is if the employer is matching your contribution you should contribute as much as you can and take their match (that’s call extra money, honey).

So, step three here is review your whole package. What are the specific additional benefits they offer, like commuter, transport or flex-time options? If you are specifically looking to negotiate your salary, try and find the industry norm. However, specific benefits within your package may also be negotiable, even if the salary isn’t. Decide what is your priority (commuter stipend and 401k match?) and what you are willing to give on (holidays and/or flex hours?).

d) Practice and understand the art of negotiating.

Once you understand what you’re being offered and what is negotiable, learning how to confidently negotiate all the terms of your employee package will take practice. Take time to practice your negotiating skills by role playing with trusted friends, colleagues or peers.  Try it in the mirror. Think of your argument for an increase in pay or benefits and why you are an important contributing member of their team.

If that’s not comfortable, research language around negotiating, and decide what approach works best for you.  As our HR expert said, always negotiate when you get a job offer. Once you’re in a position, annual review time is always a good place to think about asking for a raise (particularly if your review is positive!), or right after you nailed some amazing thing that made your team function better or your company make more money. Showing your worth through actions that you can cite when asking for a raise gives you a stronger argument…. ‘Cause remember, it’s all about their money (bottom line)…..


There are many opinions on salary negotiation strategies. However, we believe if you understand the basics of finance, understand your value in the marketplace and practice promoting your strengths to employers, you will have the confidence to rock into your HR department (or boss) and ask for what we’re worth. 

To learn more about the root causes of inequality in the marketplace, check out this article.  To learn more about Mikaela Kiner, her company, UniquelyHR, (and see what employers think about hiring!), check out her website: http://uniquelyhr.com/