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Why women don't ask for more money

Written by: Jillian Climie.

Many of the clients we work with at The Thoughtful Co have put off asking for more money for months or even years. Interestingly, the reasons they provide are often the same, no matter if they are a senior executive or someone in the first few years of their career. I’ve outlined some of these common reasons below, as well as my rationale for why they are holding us back from asking for the money we deserve.

"I wanted to prove myself first before negotiating." This is one of the most common justifications I hear from women to validate to themselves that they should not ask for more money. So many of us seem to have the mentality that we were lucky to be offered the job in the first place, and we really have to prove to the company that we can do it before negotiating for the pay we deserve. However, if you've been offered a job, it means that you’ve already proven you can do this role. You’ve likely gone through a rigorous recruiting process and been chosen out of many different candidates. Companies do not take recruiting lightly; they put the time and effort in to make sure they are hiring the right people. You have the skills, demonstrated experience and ability to excel, and you’ve impressed multiple leaders in the company to get that offer. You’ve already proven your worth – so it’s time to push against that feeling of being an imposter or that you're not fully qualified. Know that negotiating a new job offer (before you start the job) is completely normal and appropriate.

"I don’t have the exact skills that demand the higher salary." You may have heard the statistic that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas women apply only if they meet 100% of them. I see a similar mindset come up in pay negotiations as well. We can always find a reason why we might not fit a role or market value perfectly – for example, you might not have that project management designation yet, or you might have only managed a local team, instead of global, in the past. However, few people have the exact skill set demanded by a job description or salary data. They may be missing a few requirements, but also have additional strengths and experiences that are even more valuable. Don’t let nuances of role scopes or salary requirements stop you from pushing for the salary increase or promotion you deserve.

"I assumed the offer wasn’t negotiable." This is an interesting one, especially in more structured or unionized environments. In some cases, compensation might not be negotiable, but it's always worth it to ask. We’ve worked with clients who have assumed their salary is not negotiable for years, and then after asking, have found out it really is. You might be surprised what can be negotiated, especially as you get more senior in your career. And even if there is no room for negotiation in your salary, there are often other elements that can be pushed on beyond salary. For example, flexible work schedules, vacation time, sign-on bonuses, professional development allowances, role scopes, sabbaticals, equity ownership, etc. There's no harm in asking to see where there might be flexibility.

"I was nervous they would take the offer away if I negotiated." This is typically everyone’s worst case scenario, especially as recruiting processes can be so long and rigorous. When we really want that new job, it can be tempting to accept whatever offer they give us, in fear that they could retract it if we ask for more money. Know that this is a common fear, but something that is extremely rare in practice – I’ve been working in compensation for 9 years and have only seen this happen once. And if this were to happen, it would be a red flag for the company, reflecting on them poorly – not on you. Know that in the vast majority of cases, the worst that can happen is a “no” to the increase.


At The Thoughtful Co, we specialize in helping women negotiate for the pay they deserve. On average, we help our clients achieve a +25% increase in their compensation package. If you’d like to learn more, please book an intro call with us here or check out our website here.


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