Rihanna said it best- ”Pay me what you owe me…”
It’s absolutely no secret that there is a pay gap between Black women and other professionals. Currently, Black women in the U.S. are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women. Knowing that, and the high possibility of not being promoted and losing almost one million dollars over our career to this pay gap, we still show up with grit, glam and guts. So, as we continue to sprinkle our Black Girl Magic on corporate America, we must always remember our worth, contributions and ability to negotiate. You might be thinking it sounds easier than done, but nope, there’s just a few do’s and don’t’s.
First up — Do your research. I know that sounds familiar. Whether it was choosing your university, changing your major, or choosing a Black Greek Lettered Organization (shout out to my Sorors) you’ve been there before. Sites such as Payscale, Glassdoor, GetRaised, etc. provide transparency as to what competitive pay looks like for various roles. Knowing the market value of your role, or future role is important. You should always be able to provide documentation to support your request, but remember that even if your current compensation looks competitive, there is always room for discussion and improvement.
Don’t be intimidated by the process and keep your emotions in check. You don’t want to come off as arrogant, demanding or forceful. These behaviors can cost you the job with a new employer, or keep you from receiving future raises with your current employer. It’s a slippery slope, but completely manageable. Authenticity and narrative go a long way here. Tell your story, your impact and what you can do in the future.
Next, check your mindset. One of the biggest mistakes is not believing you are deserving or have the right to negotiate. You have to walk into it with the same confidence you dance in the mirror with and relay what you deserve. Never accept what is initially offered. This could be at a new company or during annual performance review meetings. Not negotiating is selling yourself short. You’ve got the pay gap to do that for you, don’t do it to yourself.
“You have to walk into it with the same confidence you dance in the mirror with and relay what you deserve. ”
Adding to the list of don’ts is to avoid disclosing your past pay, bonus, and/or perk history unless absolutely necessary. Don’t throw a number out first, you’ve gotta understand the budget and salary for the role before you share. At the same time, always have a number in the back of your mind. There must be an end goal to effectively negotiate. Most companies only want to know past pay to align the salary they are offering based on your previous employer’s market rate. This means they get their chosen talent for the best rate, with best meaning less for them, not best for you. You’ll also want to avoid sharing too much on why you are counter offering. Keep the personal out of it, this is business. Trust, you’ll find pleasure in that cash bump.
In the end you want to do what many call Prepare, Package and Practice. Know what you want, what reasonable concessions you are willing to make and what your non-negotiables are.
Make sure you package all of those things into a narrative that is captivating and impactful. Summarize what you have done, and what you can do. When countering, don’t discuss each little thing you’re requesting piece by piece or present them in a piece-mill way. It comes off as petty and greedy, no matter what it is. Have a plan and practice it. I often suggest playing this in the mirror. You know, Black women can sometimes wear their thoughts on their faces, or at least I do. I find that practicing for negotiations, as if you are preparing for a sales pitch or local news interview, not only leaves you looking polished but is often effective and leaves you paid.
Last, but not least- Just like you remembered your ability to negotiate, when they don’t pay you, remember your ability to move on. Rihanna said a few other things about her money in that song too…But we’ll keep it corporate.
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Megan D. King, SHRM-SCP, is a Human Resources professional passionate about people, strategy, and creative big picture approaches. Megan currently works within marketing, advertising and entertainment- Driving strategy, engagement, D&I, and leveraging HR for sustainable growth. At work, home and in her community, Megan’s goal is to make an impact. Megan recently joined Detroit’s entrepreneurial scene with two business ventures- Royal Luxe Event Design, a boutique event planning company and Liquid Lush, a luxury mobile bartending company. Megan consistently gives back via multiple community organizations with the Midnight Golf Program closest to her heart. Megan volunteers with the program, mentoring during the school year and annually chaperones a weeklong college tour inclusive of HBCU’s. Megan built her career foundation at non-profits and tech startups in the Bay Area, recently returning to Michigan. Megan is currently an MBA candidate at Michigan State University and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.