Carlson Executive Education Blog

Mind the Pay Gap: Salary Negotiation for Women

Posted by Kelly McClellan on Apr 24, 2019 10:34:00 AM

Last month, Carlson Executive Education was pleased to sponsor the TeamWomen MN March event, featuring Kelly McClellan, Senior Associate Director of MBA Career Coaching at the Carlson School of Management. Kelly guided us through the salary negotiation process, empowering attendees with the knowledge they need to become strong negotiators. Here is a collection of takeaways for women at each stage of the negotiations process.


Do Your Research

Whether you are trying to move up in your company, negotiate a yearly salary increase, or move to a new organization entirely, you must do your research.

In fact, not doing your research is the number one mistake you can make. If you are moving to a new location, online resources like or can help you gauge an appropriate salary rate. If you are moving careers, network with professionals in the industry. If you are moving up in your organization, a mentor may be your best resource. And if you are preparing to ask for a straightforward salary increase, ask your peers to share their salaries—and share yours.

Your research will also tell you the structure of the role you're moving into: Is it commission-based? Have you heard about a large year-end bonus? These factors will indicate how much negotiating power you have. This research should also give you enough knowledge to present your initial salary expectations if asked. This should be your best estimate stated either as a single number (e.g. $50,000) or within a limited range (e.g. $50-55,000).


Review the Offer

After the grueling application process, or interviews, or the preparation for a year-end review, you will receive your proposed salary amount. Are you happy with it?

If you’re not happy and you would like to negotiate, consider your differentiators. If you are applying to a new organization, or a new unit within your organization, they may not be aware of your unique knowledge. Did they take your differentiators into account? What do your years of experience, your unique skills, and your track record add up to? Decide your worth to get yourself closer to your ideal number.

If you are happy with the original offer, it may still be worth asking for more. As women, we tend to not negotiate for ourselves which ultimately can have an impact on our overall financial situation. Consider negotiating an additional 5-10% of the salary. Is that number beyond the scope of the role, or can you justify your way up to it? List all the unique ways you’ll add value, including undervalued work, like running a committee, or extracurricular activities like board membership. In any scenario, choose the most aggressive number you can still justify.


Watch our webinar: Negotiation Strategies: Capitalizong on Your Gender Advantage

To learn more about negotiation strategies for women, watch our webinar “Negotiation Strategies: Capitalizing on Your Gender Advantage” with Professor Pri Shah. Click here to view the recording.


Negotiate Best Outcome

Many job-seekers are worried about the possibility of an offer being taken away if they try to negotiate. Remember, it's a lot more work for an organization to go through the entire recruiting and hiring process than to work with you to find a number you're both happy with. It is unlikely an offer will be retracted. The worst that can happen is an unwillingness to negotiate with you.

This is also the time to know your true motivators and deal breakers. What is it exactly that will make you feel whole? There is no point in accepting an offer that you cannot live off of, or that will make you feel you’re doing more work than you’re fairly being compensated for. For this reason, knowing the lowest number you are willing or able to accept is as important as knowing your dream number.

Treat the negotiation process as a conversation. Ask how they came up with the number, then reiterate your differentiators. Cite your research, and ask them how you can work together to get the offer close to market rate. Even if they don’t increase the salary, ask about other options. Can a creative benefit (like more vacation time) be used to make up the difference?


Internal Candidates

If you are seeking a cost-of-living raise or other expected raise, many of the same skills can be utilized. The key is in timing and mindset. Rarely are requests like these resolved in a single conversation. For you, a raise is not a single conversation that ends in a yes or no, but likely a series of conversations spaced out over time.

Begin conversations with your direct leader, who is likely on your side, well in advance of any standard year-end or merit-related processes. It is possible they may not have the experience (or potentially authority) to approve a raise on their own so be prepared to offer to help. In these initial conversations you want to gain their support so frame your questions accordingly. "I know you have always been an advocate for me. How can we partner in this process?" is an example of one way to frame your request for a raise.

Much like in a new job offer situation, this is the time to begin to share the differentiators you bring to the table. This can be a combination of both what makes you unique inside and outside the company as well as how you perform and the results you have delivered in comparison to your internal peers. Lastly, don’t forgot to show how your role has changed over time. What were your initial responsibilities, what are they now, and what else are you happy to take on in order to justify the higher salary.

 Click here to learn more about our 3-day program Women In Leadership

Thrive and grow to your full potential. Join Carlson Executive Education's 3-day program Women In Leadership: Inspire, Influence & Impact this May 29th  to 31st. Click here for more information and to register. 

Topics: Salary, Women in Business, Negotiation