Close this search box.

Empowering women in the workplace: 5 negotiation strategies for career advancement

Empowering Women in the Workplace: 5 Negotiation Strategies for Career Advancement

By Amy Kaufman

Navigating new job opportunities or entering salary negotiations continue to highlight unique challenges for women in the workplace. These challenges generate barriers to career advancement and can limit financial growth. Research shows that women are 16% less likely to apply to a job after viewing the job description for not meeting 100% of the qualifications listed – where men tend to apply to a job when only meeting 60% of the qualifications. The process of self-selecting out of applying for a job has led to women applying to 20% fewer jobs than men, limiting opportunities before having an interview or entering a salary negotiation. 

With 71% of human resource professionals reporting that achieving gender parity in their company is a top priority, it is critical that women feel more confident to aim higher during their job search and feel empowered and prepared to negotiate their salary and career pathing.

5 Strategies for Negotiating Salary or a New Position  

When assessing job descriptions, remember that they are ideal profiles. Hiring managers understand that not every requirement will be met. It is important to find a balance between not underestimating your capabilities and not exaggerating your skills. Being prepared for a job interview or salary negotiation is essential. Here are 5 important strategies for women entering a workplace negotiation: 

1. Do the Research and Ask for It 

Being educated and confident in requesting a salary increase requires research and preparation. This can mean identifying average salary ranges for similar positions or gaining a further understanding of how the company may approach the negotiation process. Men are more likely to initially request a higher salary, where women have historically felt uneasy about asking for more money, making them more likely to stay closer to what they are currently making or made most recently. Some states, including California, have implemented legislation where employers can no longer ask for a current salary, in part to address the existing gender wage gap. A common setback in these scenarios is the thought that a raise or negotiation will be offered by the company proactively – which is unlikely. Being direct and specifically asking for a raise or a new title is the best way to make it happen. 

2. Embrace the Silence 

After a request like this is made, it is common for there to be a lengthy, sometimes uncomfortable silence in the room. Do not overcomplicate the request by filling this silence with empty conversation. This can lead to feeling the need to justify the request, or even apologize for making it. Providing the hiring manager, or your current manager, with additional opportunities to say no or even rebut specific statements should be avoided. Less is more in this scenario – make the ask and let it speak for itself.  

According to one study, women tend to negotiate better for others than they do for themselves. Hiring managers often expect candidates to negotiate salary, and in financial or accounting industries, it is common for employees to have to negotiate on behalf of the company. This creates an organic opportunity to display effective communication and negotiating skills prior to being in the role, highlighting the immediate value that can be brought to the company in these functional roles. 

3. Focus on Efficiency and Results 

A common reason why women hesitate to enter salary negotiations or ask for a raise is due to differences in work schedules during traditional work hours. There may be personal obligations that require attention throughout the day, like picking children up from school or having to run an unexpected errand. With an increase in remote and hybrid work flexibility and a larger focus on work-life balance, the ability to customize a work schedule has increased. For example, if a child needs to be picked up from school at 4:30 p.m. and a work task still needs to be completed, signing on in the evening to complete the task is a tangible option. In this instance, the hours are still being invested, regardless of the timing, and high-quality work is being completed. Focusing on the efficiency and quality of your work should be the focus in justifying the salary negotiation or request for a raise, not the specific hours themselves. 

4. Leverage Your Personal and Professional Network 

When applying for a new job or entering negotiations, women are 26% less likely to ask for a referral. A strong professional network can provide valuable insights and feedback, especially previous negotiation tactics that have been successful (or unsuccessful). This allows for informed and effective strategizing, and more importantly can create an organic ally that can vouch for your credibility. Trust is a cornerstone of successful negotiations where having a mutual connection or reference can significantly expedite the process. It is important to note that while a professional network is a key resource, leaning into a personal network can be just as impactful. Leveraging friends or a spouse to brainstorm and simulate the negotiation can ease nerves and generate a thoughtful and tailored approach to the negotiation by finding out what does and, perhaps more importantly, does not work. 

5. Be Your Strongest Advocate 

In a recent scenario, a senior manager with over eight years of experience in her company was seeking advice from her professional network to request a promotion for a director role. The overwhelming response received was to assertively advocate for herself by emphasizing her tenure with the company and the increase in responsibilities – and to just ask for it. The result? A promotion to director within the company because she asked for it and was prepared to advocate for herself with supporting details and data. 

When it comes to women negotiating salary, a promotion or a raise – it is critical to be proactive and not passive. Relying on others to recognize accomplishments is not an effective strategy and can often be time consuming and even lead to resentment. Women taking the initiative and being their own best advocate becomes not just a strategy, but a crucial step in achieving successful career negotiations and growth. 

Amy Kaufman - Vaco - San Francisco

About Amy Kaufman

Amy Kaufman started her career with BVOH Search & Consulting, now Vaco, nearly two decades ago. Today, she connects with and advises top accounting and finance talent across the San Francisco Bay area, bringing a relationship-based approach to every collaboration with both clients and candidates.


Get Our Job Seeker Tool Kit

Fill out the form below to get our job seeker resource guides delivered directly to your inbox.