How to ask for a raise

I will never forget how I felt when I found out I was making significantly less than my male counterpart. I had been in the role longer and my performance reviews were far better. Yet I was making about 15% less. I had already given notice and was going to business school so there was nothing to be done. At least that is how I felt at the time.

It still irks me and I am sure there are many of you who are in that same situation. This came up again when I was recently asked about a situation in which a woman was getting paid less than her male counterpart. They had the same title and responsibilities, but this woman had been in the role longer. She had also outperformed her male peer in every metric.

The easiest way to increase your salary is often to leave the company, but she did not want to change jobs. So what is she to do?

The situation felt so familiar and I empathized. One important point that is known but worth stating is that all of the emotions we experience in a situation like this are real and valid. Often a useful first step is to seek a good friend who will listen so you can process those feelings. Then you’ve got to move on to step 2, and that’s what I’m here to help with.

My advice for us is simple. We must stand up for ourselves and communicate our worth. However, we must do so in a way that doesn’t compromise our connections or send the wrong message. How do we do this?

Here are a few simple ideas to consider when navigating this conversation:

  • Get Clear On How Decisions Are Made: Every company has their own methods and hoops. Is yours based on merit, title, tenure, or relationships? Understand how salary decisions are made. This will drive the case you build for your request.


  • Get them to Agree: Once you have someone agreeing with you, it is easier to get them to continue to agree. So you want to position your conversation with something they can agree with. How a project went well. How you are doing. You can even start with the phrase “would you agree…” Steer the conversation so when you ask, you can use their own words of agreement to establish the basis for your raise.


  • Let Them Solve the Problem: If your pay is based solely on the rank and title – then it should be equal. If it is based on merit, and together you have established your merit is higher, then you should be paid more. People buy into their own ideas, so try to get them to suggest the solution. Ask them, “What do you think would be fair in this situation?”


  • Set Clear Expectations: Get in front of the decision. Have the conversation when adjustments are still able to be made so they know your expectations when they are at the decision-making table. Express to them that you will accept the rectification in the bonus in the current year, but expect the base to be corrected for the next year.


  • Can vs. Can’t: They may express that their hands are tied. If they pass the buck, remember you are not interested in what they can’t do. Ask them what they can do, even if it is simply speaking up for you.

As a woman, you are entitled to fair and equal pay. This may require you to ask for it, but you are equipped to do so. Proceed confidently in who you are as an asset to the company, and assert your worth today!

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