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How to Ask For a Pay Raise: Tips for Women

Updated on October 21, 2016
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Sadie teaches speaking and leadership skills to women who want to have a better relationship with others and with themselves.

Are you nervous about asking for a raise at work, but deep down you know that you really deserve one? Learn more about the planning you must do if you want to get the salary increase you want.

Asking for a raise you deserve is not about begging.

It's time to stop thinking about asking for as raise as if you were asking for a handout.
It's time to stop thinking about asking for as raise as if you were asking for a handout.

Tip: Always read your union agreement or employment contract before you ask for a raise. Don't miss out on scheduled wage increases that may be due to you.

Are you ready to ask for a raise at work? Even if you don’t think you need a raise, (or worse, you don't think you'll get one, even if you ask), there are plenty of good reason to go ahead and ask anyway.

Why should you ask for a raise even if you are afraid you won’t get one? Because over the life of your career, not asking for a raise can put you behind your working peers, especially if you are a woman. In a recent article in Maclean’s magazine, Sara Laschever, co-author of Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, explained that failing to effectively negotiate your salary early on in your career can cost you as much as half a million dollars over the course of your entire career. Laschever says, “In most fields, whatever raise you get every year is predicated on what you made before.”

If losing out on up to $500,000 over the course of your entire work life is scary, don’t panic. There are things that you can do to ensure that you have the best chance of getting the raise you deserve.


Ask yourself why you want a raise. The first you should take when asking for a raise is to examine your motivation for wanting more money. Are you struggling to make ends meet at home? Do you think that getting a raise will provide the recognition you’re looking for? Do you want to make more money because you believe it will lead to better job prospects down the road?

Don't forget to read the fine print in your employment agreement before you ask for a raise.
Don't forget to read the fine print in your employment agreement before you ask for a raise. | Source

What is your biggest fear about asking for a raise?

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Figure out what kind of a raise you want to ask for. This is an important part of planning your request for a wage increase because it will usually determine how much you can ask for from your employer. It will also influence the planning you’ll need to do to convince your boss that you deserve to be paid more for the work you do. There are two types of pay increase that you can ask for: a cost of living increase or a merit increase.

A cost of living increase is a wage increase designed to help employees keep up with the rising cost of living that is generally beyond the employee’s control. A cost of living increase should offset the growing cost of basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing and transportation. Most progressive employers already schedule cost of living increases as part of their overall employee recruitment and retention strategies.

A pay increase to offset cost of living expenses can be as low as 1% of you gross annual salary, or as high as 3 or 4%, depending on the state of the economy and your company's market performance. As well some cost of living increases have already been predetermined through union negotiations or as part of the employment agreement you signed when you were hired. In many ways, you may already be limited in how much you can expect for a cost of living wage increase.

A merit increase or a performance increase is a wage raise based on your boss’s evaluation of your contributions at work. Asking for a wage increase based on your job performance takes careful planning and preparation. Even if you always exceed the goals that your boss has set out for you, year after year, there's no guarantee that you will always get the pay raise you want. You can, however, greatly increase your chances that your boss will authorize a raise or reward with a lump sum performance bonus. Here are some tips to help you get ready to ask for that salary increase you want.

The most important thing to remember about a merit increase is that, unlike a pre-determined cost of living increase, not everyone will be offered a merit increase. Perhaps only those who actually ask for a raise will get one. Knowing your strengths and having clearly documented proof of your achievements throughout the year is be critical to your success in convincing your boss that you are the one who deserves a raise.

Rosie the Riveter wasn't afraid to do a man's job! So don't be afraid to ask for the raise you deserve!
Rosie the Riveter wasn't afraid to do a man's job! So don't be afraid to ask for the raise you deserve! | Source

How to Ask for a Raise: Tips for Women

Ask yourself, “Why do I deserve a raise?” and then write down at least ten different answers. This is a critical first step in planning your request for a pay raise. After all. if you can’t identify at least ten solid reasons for your boss to reward you by paying you more, you’ll have a flimsy case to present.

Get the timing right. Your chances of getting the raise you want are higher if you pick the right time to request a salary increase. Is your employer facing profit losses due to a slowing economy? If so, it doesn’t matter how hard you have worked or how convinced you are that you deserve a raise, this might not be the right time to ask for a raise.

Do your homework before you ask for a raise. Do some research and find out what the national average wages are for people doing your job within your industry. Figure out of your current wage is competitive. If you could earn more money somewhere else, would you consider moving to another job? How hard would it be for your employer to replace you if you left?

Do the math. Calculate how much of a salary increase you want (or need) in order to feel recognized and fairly compensated for the work you do. Research current employment trends and salary surveys in your sector. You’ll need this information if you want to make a case to your boss that you deserve to be paid more.

Laschever says that when it comes to negotiating a pay raise, men generally aim for a target pay raise that is 30% higher than what women typically shoot for. She advises women to aim for the upper salary range of for people with your experience, skills, and talent. "You are going to get pushed down in the negotiation any way, so aim high," she says.

Think positively, but also be prepared for rejection. Decide on what you are willing to settle for. If you can’t get a raise at this time, are there other financial perks or benefits that you’d like to ask for: more vacation time, life insurance and long term disability benefits, a paid sabbatical? Laschever reminds employees to assume that everything is negotiable. If you can’t get higher pay, are there other things that you could ask for that might improve your overall job satisfaction. For example, being allowed the privilege of telecommuting two days a week may prove far more valuable to your work-life balance than a simple infusion of more cash. Or how about working nine days a fortnight instead of ten, for the same salary? Remember, a higher salary means higher taxes. On the other hand, successfully asking to be moved into that empty corner office won't cost your employer anything, nor will it increase your taxable income. A bit of space, a city view, and more privacy may be just the kind of recognition you've really been looking for!

What do you think about these tips on asking for a pay raise? Do you have any additional suggestions for women on how to negotiate a favorable wage increase? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Be sure to wear a confident smile and a crisp outfit when you ask your boss for a raise.
Be sure to wear a confident smile and a crisp outfit when you ask your boss for a raise.

© 2014 Sadie Holloway

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  • Room of My Own profile image
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    Sadie Holloway 3 years ago

    Thanks for stopping by, Faith Reaper, and sharing your experience with cost of living increases and pay raises. Whether you work in the public or private sector, there's never any guarantee that your wage will keep up with the economy. I hope you get your next increase soon!

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

    Great article full of great advice for women asking for that raise! I work in state government, so our raises are put on hold due to budget restraints for the entire state or when one tops out on one's salary, then that is it until the state gives a cost of living raise to all.

    Up and more and sharing.

    Have a great evening,

    Faith Reaper

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