Tips from Women in Tech: Salary Negotiations
Anyone else’s palms begin to sweat when thinking about approaching the ever-scary Salary Negotiation conversation?
A few months ago, I attended a women-lead tech conference and they addressed a rather taboo but important topic “Apparently women are less likely to negotiate the salary and conditions when being offered a position.”
Now, of course, this statement isn’t applicable to every woman out there, but if I think back to landing my first ever job, I can totally relate. I remember just being grateful for the opportunity and not wanting to ruffle any feathers in asking for more (or what I felt I deserved!)
After speaking with other women in my network I realised I was not alone and so many had experienced the similar feelings of; Lacking Confidence / Feeling Uncomfortable. Unsure where to even begin / What to say?
With this in mind, I wanted to share advice from women working in technology on their personal experiences and top tips for acing Salary Negotiations:
“Don’t be afraid to discuss salaries with your co-workers. Not everyone will be comfortable disclosing what they make, but finding a few people that are is the easiest way to see if you’re paid fairly or not. And it gives you an idea of what is reasonable to ask for during your next salary review.
From my experiences, women tend to undervalue themselves and as a result ask for a lower salary/raise than a man would. Next time, push yourself to ask for an amount so high that you almost feel embarrassed about it. The worst that could happen is that they say no, and you will probably still end up with a pretty good salary/raise since your starting point was so high.”
— Josefin Agerblad (Software Engineer)
“The first time I was to enter a salary negotiation I had planned on what figure and arguments to give, but once in the discussion, I felt insecure and uncomfortable with saying those words. I ended up asking for a much lower salary than I had intended to and was so disappointed in myself. Next time I had a salary negotiation coming up, to avoid making the same mistake, I prepared by saying the sentences out loud to myself and to a practice partner. It actually helped! In the negotiation this time I felt more confident and was able to stick to my plan which paid off. So, my advice to you if you are worried the same thing will happen to you: practice beforehand in front of a mirror or with someone else, and the words will come more naturally to you in a real situation.
When applying for a new job, in many cases the recruiter will ask you for your salary requirements already in the first call. Make sure to have thought it through and be prepared for what to answer. Some people argue you should not disclose your requirements until later in the process, but I personally found there are advantages with being transparent about the expectations early on. Neither you nor the hiring company wants to go through a whole process before finding out that your expectations mismatch. It is okay to not provide an exact number right away; you could always give a range, telling that it depends on the compensation package as a whole and that you need to get more familiar with the role and responsibilities before you can be more precise. Just be aware that when giving a range, the employer will interpret the lower number as a salary that you would accept.”
— Anonymous (Data Engineer)
“Lia’s tips on negotiation, promotions and generally being happy at work:
Salary negotiations are pretty tricky when you think about it: it’s a process in which two parties agree on a sum of money -countable and tangible- in exchange for your work AND for all the value you bring to the team and the company.
Sometimes the value of your work can be easily expressed in terms of money, but not everything that matters can be. Should anyone put a price to your enthusiasm? to the way you help your coworkers learn something new? to your ability to keep a levelled head? to the way you say “good morning”?
Many things that matter may not be directly priced ($$$)… But it doesn’t mean they do not _affect_ the negotiation. When a company hires you, they get more than your skills and time. They get your mindset, personality and other traits. Keep this in mind. It’s really important.
Now, on to tips. There is an introspection exercise that I have found very useful. This is a process I do a few times per year to set myself on track and choosing my projects and goals.
Ask yourself a few things:
# How do I think my company makes money?
Do you work for a product company? is it a digital product? on what sector? or is it services? a consultancy/agency? What kind of customers does the company have? how do they make the decision to spend the money on your company?
# How does my role connect to the way the company makes money?
Is my work directly connected to the revenue of the company? am I building a critical part of the product / service? If it is easy for you to see how important your role is to the revenue of the company, make sure that you craft a simple explanation for your negotiation meetings. If it is however difficult for _you_ to see how your work connects to product/revenue, try to spend some time thinking about that connection.
# How does the way I perform my role affect the way the company makes money?
This is an extremely important question. Unless your skillset is a niche-match-made-in-heaven for the role (<10 people in the world can actually do your job) then your biggest value over the other 1000 people comes from HOW the way you do your job gives value to the company. And its important that you are really, really honest about how you answer this question.
To answer this question it can be helpful to keep track of moments in which you saved the day a.k.a. dragon-slaying stories. An example (hypothetical): You were re-calculating a customer acquisition cost using new data and somewhere in that analysis, some consumption numbers didn’t sum as expected. The mismatch was seemingly small, but for a segment in which the company wanted to grow aggressively. You followed your hunch and found that the company was being double-charged under some specific circumstances. Moreover, you projected the numbers to expected growth and the mismatch made you swear in your favourite language.
Collect stories like this during your work, and take them with you to your negotiation meeting. It’s important that the story showcases how your skills and your intangibles (in this case being thorough and having initiative) lead to obvious monetary consequences. For promotions, make sure that you can have stories that can make your interviewer see how you have tackled challenges in the position you want to be promoted to.
Make sure that the arguments connect your skills and personality traits to the revenue of the company and/or the revenue of the unit you work for. Put yourself of the shoes of the persons deciding who to hire, or much money to assign on salary increases. The harsh reality is that money is not unlimited and you have to make a solid case.
Now, for HOW to set a good price point, that is a topic for another conversation. For now, I hope this exercise helps you get to where you want.”
— Lia Silva-Lopez (Senior Data Scientist / Tech Lead User Research)
“Individual salary is always subjective. Fairness may not be a good angle to approach. Focus on the value/ the increase of the value, you are creating to the company, to the team and the decision-makers, you will get more chance of having a better result.
Know how much your peers, who are in the same company and same level as you, earn and why they are able to have that much. Not average.
Know your worth, how much value you are creating for the team and company. Understand your advantages and contributions which cannot easily be provided by others.
Show the loyalty and alignment with your manager and the company. Do not threat.
Then, speak up and do not take it personally: Ask a raise confidently by showing your worth and your contributions. If the proposal is not approved, ask the considerations behind the decision and the direction to improve or change to get the raise or promotion. And agree on a fixed time period to discuss this again (say 3 months). Be empathetic and tactical.”
— Celine Xu (Senior Data Scientist)
“As a woman, it is crucial to know your worth and to become comfortable communicating your worth. In interviews and negotiations, I recommend sitting back and listening to what you are being offered and then come with a counteroffer, referring to your skills, level of experience and recent achievements. Your counteroffer, should be based on your idea of the optimal life — whether it is working hours, location, salary or other benefits. Everything is negotiable! Never simply accept an offer — offer to accept!
As a manager, I often (if not always) see women in recruitment processes setting the compensation bar way too low. Again, know your worth and remember that it is a negotiation. Set the bar higher than you think possible, both in terms of salary and benefits. Another approach is to not disclose a number when asked about your current or asking salary, but to simply say ”As a woman in tech, I expect to be fairly compensated”. Unconventional, perhaps, but very, very effective”
— Emma Smedslund (Development Manager | Agile Change Manager)
“Remember that the actual number on the pay-check doesn’t necessarily make up for it all. There are other ways of increasing the value of your remuneration. Prepare for the salary interview by collecting other areas to negotiate in addition to the salary. This can be benefits such as paid lunch (both actual lunch, and the time you spend while eating, giving you XX minutes shorter every day.) It can be free telephone and internet at home, subscriptions to newspapers/magazines, a company car/bicycle, extra holidays, more pension etc. All of these constitute a greater value without it being the actual pay.”
— Maria Dilling Elken (CPO & Co-founder @ Skipit)
“Get to know the average salary on the market for similar positions. Do not accept to fall below the market. One should not need to change jobs to get a salary increase and catch up with with the market. Otherwise, do not accept a salary below the average unless you are told clearly what you are lacking and what you’d need to improve
As a junior it is common to be offered a lower initial salary, but it is important to advance quickly. I recommend you have a discussion about where you expect to be in one year compensation wise and ask your manager what would be needed for you to get there. This way your career expectations are clear and you would look for opportunities of growth together.
In the machine learning field it is easy to get out of touch with the advancement in the field. To improve your position in future negotiations, make sure to help your employer understand that is beneficial for everyone if you invest time in your development continuously. Try to agree on several hours per week that can be spent on learning about any topic in the field.”
— Andreea Taylor (Lead Machine Learning Engineer)
I hope these tips can help break down the stigma around Salary Negotiations and get you excited to have these career-defining conversations. The time for neglecting to negotiate your career & worth is over!
💌 A huge thank you to the wonderful Women in Tech involved in this initiative, your support is greatly appreciated!💌
By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI Nordics