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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Getty Images.