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7 Successful Women On Negotiating A Pay Raise

There's no justice in shrinking ourselves, so how do we boss up and get money?

Finance

Being a woman is love but who are we kidding? It's also a challenge as we consistently work to merely chip away at the glass ceiling, throwing what feels like boulders at it. The only thing more difficult than being a working woman is doing so while being Black. The sage life advice of ancestors rings true, even from beyond the grave: You have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have.

Black excellence as a woman has never been easy to attain and it never will be, but that doesn't mean we can't keep demanding it in every space we step into but most certainly the place we spend the bulk of our time: The workplace.

That starts with knowing our worth in the workplace and asking for the big bucks for our big bag that we've been working twice as hard at getting forever. It's easy to feel intimidated or unable to advocate for yourself in any work setting because women are called b*tches, while men are framed as headstrong go-getters when they cut to the bottom line. But, there's no justice in shrinking ourselves to fit into a sexist society that tells us women are undeserving of a closed pay gap. So, how do we do it? How do we boss up and get this money in the words of an underrated Detroit rapper?

Well, these 7 black and brown women share stories and the most important things they learned about negotiating their salary throughout their careers:

Donna R., Audit Director at TD Bank

"Be able to verbalize and prove that you're an expert at what you do. Be known for thinking outside the box, stepping outside your comfort zone, and driving results."

Heather R., Manager of Employee Health at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital

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"I transitioned from working as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department 10 years ago. I worked 12-hour shifts three days a week. My new role was an exempt manager role that provided a nice raise. However, six months into the role I was provided additional duties based on my dual degree. The hours became longer but the pay did not change. I knew that was to my benefit. I also knew based on my work and the autonomy that I had that my boss trusted me and relied on me to get things done.

"I went to my boss with a prepared plan of action in writing. I methodically laid out the additional duties and the impact that I had with my current role, the hours involved, and the return investment the organization was receiving because I took on the additional responsibilities.

"Know your worth and add tax, meaning find a number you're okay with as compensation for your work and then ask for more providing room for negotiations. Also, do your homework and know what you bring to the table before asking for a raise. Be ready to provide examples of how your work has driven change and/or impacted the company."

Fabiana M., Publicist at Zilker Media

"If giving a hard number gives you anxiety, you can settle on a range (ex: 40K to 46K). This can help employers see you won't settle for less than a certain amount and can give you wiggle room for negotiations."

Joy C., Transformational Speaker

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"What I learned was how to make a case. When you're going to ask for more money, you bring the data and you do so with confidence. There was a little pushback when I first presented my request to the chair, prior to him taking it to the committee. I had made myself so invaluable, I used the circumstances of the organization (they had been without a director for over two years and so now they've got me on board, it made a big splash) and it's all in the papers, so they don't want to look bad by losing a CEO. They would've lost a lot had I walked and because of this, it didn't even make sense for them to argue with it."

"So it's about building a case, making yourself invaluable, and being assertive, not aggressive (we're Black women so you know how that goes), and then showing it in the numbers (they don't lie)."

"I locked that figure in (additionally 25K) and as a selling point, I opted out of being able to receive pay increases for the duration of my three-year contract. And while I was eligible for bonuses, this is not something I would do again nor do I recommend it. Lastly, I would say ask for more clarity on what is required of you to receive a bonus."

Keyantee D., Executive Director Human Resources 

"Always talk to people in similar roles and ask about perks (increased life insurance, car allowance, extra PTO days) so that you can understand what negotiable perks are out there. The salary is just a small part of the overall compensation packet."

Tiffany J., Director of Patient and User Success

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"My biggest piece of advice for women who want an increase in their salary is to 'Know your worth.' I feel like this phrase gets used in many parts of life, from relationships, friendships, and even in your professional life. I realized in my current role that I was working above and beyond my title, and I started to compare what I was making to those in the industry. I did research online, spoke with previous co-workers, and realized I was underpaid. More than anything, this was hurtful, I took it personally. I thought, 'This company that I thought I meant so much to, how could they not pay me what I deserve?' My next step was figuring out, how do I have the conversation to get more money, where do I start?"

"So I found this book Secrets of Six Figure Women. The biggest takeaway from the book was to just ask. Men do it! Even if they don't qualify or have the necessary credentials. I had to learn to be brave and advocate for Tiffany because no one else will. I did my research to figure out an estimate of how much I thought I should be making and asked for it. When doing this, keep in mind that this is a starting point so you can negotiate down if necessary. Not only did I ask for a pay raise, [but] I also gave reasoning on why I deserved it. My strategy was to keep it professional, leaving my personal reasons and circumstances out and instead, focusing on the facts and outcomes that I have contributed to the company."

"Ultimately, I got what I wanted, and in all honesty the opportunity to make more money was always present, but no one gives you anything for free. You have to know your worth, and just ask."

"My last piece of advice is to be prepared in case they say no. I had a plan of my next steps in case I was denied my request. Because I know my worth, I knew if this company didn't pay me what I deserved, someone else would. Why? Because I am amazing at what I do!"

Ashley F., Healthcare Professional

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"I was given an opportunity to take on a director-level role within the organization and the role was to develop and grow a new service line or program in the hospital but also to take on additional responsibility within another service, as well. I was offered to take on this role, which I was thrilled about. To be so young and have so much responsibility trusted upon [me] was a big deal.

"Although there were other African-American women who held these roles, I was the youngest. I was given an offer for this role but I knew that it was significantly less than my peers [were] receiving. And to see that told me a lot of different things, but primarily that my age was the number one factor in the salary offer. Within post roles you have a pay grade – you'll have a minimum, a mid, and a maximum. And I knew that they were basically lowballing me in my offer.

"This led me to advocate for myself to demonstrate that not only was I prepared to take on this role but also that I had the experience, skill set, and education to do this.

"At the time, my boss was unaware that I spoke off the record to those within my network within HR about negotiating a fair salary. I brought the case to my boss and not to go above her, but I was prepared to take my argument to the head of HR and beyond. She was supportive and advocated for me to receive an increase in my salary offer.

"In essence, if I were to give a tip to other African American young women in any field: Know what type of role you have and how that aligns with your market. Know the scope of your role and do your research to see what salaries are comparable to that. Doing your research and knowing what's expected of you is important too. Job descriptions can often be vague and there's always that line at the bottom that says 'other duties assigned,' and you always want to keep that in mind because additional pay does not come with that. Be able to think five steps ahead and foresee the additional responsibilities.

"The last tip? Know your worth. Don't downplay what you're worth despite age, years of experience, or anything else – that confidence shows."

While I set out to pull together a running list of tips from these women, it seems that all of them had one solid piece of advice that covers every situation and organization that you may come across and as simple as it may seem, many of us forget to do so all too frequently: Know your worth and add tax, but be prepared to show your work.

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Featured image by Getty Images.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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