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In an unequal world with fewer women in the workforce, and facing gender pay gaps everywhere, negotiating salary can be an essential skill.
The thought of negotiating salary can be daunting, especially for women. Here are the six steps to achieve favourable outcomes from salary negotiations.
* Names changed to protect privacy
I stared at the offer letter. The company had offered me a 20% increase over my current compensation – the lower end of the range I had conveyed after two gruelling interview rounds. There was a further devil in the details; they had included gratuity in the compensation offered, whereas I had not considered this component in my take-home calculations.
After much deliberation on how ‘will I come across in negotiating salary,’ I communicated my views to them. Two days later, I received a revised offer that increased my take-home pay, which I happily accepted. A week after joining the company, I felt short-changed after discovering that my male colleague, a year my junior who used to do the role I was now hired for, was drawing 30% more salary than me. The pay disparity between us kept widening as we grew in the organisation.
That was more than a decade ago. While many things have changed since then, some things have still remained the same. The gender pay disparity, for one. According to an Oxfam India 2019 report, women in India are paid 34% less than men for the same job, making it the widest gender pay gap in Asia. This gulf spans organised industries in the corporate sector like IT and manufacturing to caregiving sectors like healthcare and social sectors—which employ more women— before widening further in unorganised sectors like agriculture. Even the entertainment sector isn’t immune, with female actors being paid less than their male counterparts.
While the prevalence of gender pay disparity is widely known, a lesser-known fact is that more men ask for a raise and negotiate their salaries than women. A study on negotiating salaries reveals that one-third of women never ask for a pay rise at their workplace compared to one-fifth of men. Another LinkedIn study shows that 90% of women professionals hesitate to ask for a raise at work.
This lack of negotiation is the first mistake many women make in negotiating salary or pay hikes. Megha*, vice-president at a leading financial services company in India, says, “When I first became a team leader, it was a shock to see how many men asked for a raise or promotion. Neither I nor the women I supervised asked for those things.”
Reasons for women being less willing to negotiate salary vary from not wanting to be seen as pushy to fear of their jobs being revoked when asked for a raise.
“I always felt that my salary was less compared to the responsibilities I handled for my company,” says Kritika*, a content writer cum trainer, about her role in an educational institute two years ago. “But I didn’t want to come across as demanding or bossy in asking for a raise. Eventually, I got a better-paying job at another organisation, and when during my exit discussions, I told my seniors that low pay was the primary reason for my job switch, they said I would have got a raise had I asked. It was an eye-opener.”
Both women and men who ask for a raise are more likely to get one than those who don’t speak up. And women have more reasons to ask for a raise since they are already earning less than their male colleagues for the same work; the more they hold back, the more this gap widens.
Identify the best time in your company’s cycle to have the discussion. If your company has a policy of increasing salaries only during the performance cycle, then there’s no point in asking for a raise early in the cycle. However, your performance discussion should not be the first time you bring up the subject. Bring up the matter with your manager at least three-four months before the performance discussion so that he expects the topic at your appraisal time.
Also, bringing up this subject when the company is undertaking employee layoffs or having a hiring freeze in place will be detrimental to your cause, notwithstanding your performance.
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This exclusive article on asking for a raise as a salaried employee in India will tell you
* When to ask for a raise
* How to ask for a raise – how to assess your worth, and how to pitch yourself
* How to ask for a raise either in person or on email – and email template samples for asking for a raise in writing
* Dos and Don’ts of asking for a raise
* How to ask for a raise beyond the corporate space – if you are in care work, including teaching, nursing, facilities management, and domestic staffing, or in the armed forces
* Keeping it professional
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...
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