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June 10, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Salary negotiation tips: no more ‘Ms. Nice Gal’

One of the more depressing statistics released this year in the employment-search arena comes from the American Association of University Women. As recently as 2012, it found, women’s median annual salaries across Washington state were just 78 percent of what men make doing the same job.

What’s even more frustrating is that the 78-cents-on-the-dollar figure is similar to the national average, which has barely changed over the last decade despite a steady increase of women in the workforce.

The reasons for this perennial injustice are intertwined with an undercurrent of sexism and the unstated but constantly reinforced expectation that women should be less aggressive than their male counterparts at work. While a solution will not come about overnight, some recent studies suggest that a sizable portion of this gender gap can be narrowed with some shifts in attitude at the start of a new job. Here are a few that may be worth trying in your next interview.

Don’t always agree to the first offer. Many women are afraid of sounding rude or difficult if they reject an initial salary offer, and don’t understand that the first figure is often merely a starting point, says Linda C. Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. In her book Women Don’t Ask,” she found that only 7 percent of women surveyed attempted to negotiate once a salary was offered at a new job; for men, the rate was 57 percent. The workers surveyed who did negotiate said they were able to increase their salary by an average of 7 percent, regardless of gender.

Determine your true value. Talk to people in your network — both male and female — and recruiters about what your qualifications and education are worth in your field, says Joan C. Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California-Hastings College of the Law, and a co-author of “What Works for Women at Work.” Keep careful records of your accomplishments and compliments you’ve received to create objective metrics of your value, she adds.

Force them to make the first move. In negotiations, the side that is the first to mention a dollar figure is often at a disadvantage. If the interviewer insists on asking for your salary needs, provide a range that is generally higher than what you were expecting. That way, he or she can counter with a smaller figure that is closer to your salary goal.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: discrimination, interviewing, negotiating, salary, self-promotion

Blog contributors

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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