Personal Finance

Make the #MeToo moment your chance for a raise

Key Points
  • Amid the scandals, more women are bringing up their salaries.
  • Here's how to navigate your way to a pay increase. 
Democratic National Committee women host an Equal Pay Day event with lemonade prices highlighting the wage gap, April 12, 2016 in Washington.
Molly Riley | AFP | Getty Images

The #MeToo Moment — the flood of sexual harassment scandals that began when Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of assaulting more than 80 women — has brought some pleasant surprises to Lisa Gates, the co-founder of a consulting and training company for professional women called She Negotiates.

Amid the headlines, one of Gate's clients, a human resources director, grew increasingly bothered by the fact that she was being vastly underpaid. (She had researched average salaries for her position). 

"She went to her boss and said, 'Here's everything I've done for you, and this is the market value for someone like me'," Gates said. "She got her confidence because of the environment being ripe for the conversation."

"He doubled her salary on the spot," Gates said.

As the conversation about sexual harassment gets louder, women are also bringing up the pay gap — to their bosses, according to experts. 

"Women are saying not only is sexual harassment not okay in the workplace, but neither is the disrespect of unequal compensation," said Victoria Pynchon, another co-founder of She Negotiates. 

Women earn around 80 percent of what men do — and the gap grows wider as the positions get higher. For example, women managers make 77 percent of what men managers make. As a result, women can earn almost half a million dollars less than men throughout their career. 

Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, said women have been more likely than men to organize in unions and report grievances in the workplace since at the least the 1980s (when data collection on this began).

It's people's tolerances for discrimination that is at an all-time low. 

"That's what the MeToo movement has done," Bronfenbrenner said. "The public isn't going to want to hear that corporations are paying based on race and gender." 

Here are some steps you should take to navigate your way to a pay increase in the #MeToo Moment. 

1. Push for your value to be seen

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The first step to getting a raise is showing you deserve one. Many clients at She Negotiates complain that their male colleagues speak over them at presentations or take over a project that they'd both been assigned to work on. 

"It's not harassment," Gates said. "It's the winnowing away of opportunity."

In these cases, you should speak to your co-worker about the problem. 

Gates gave an example of what you could say if a male co-worker cut you off in a meeting. Rather than point your finger, she said, ask "diagnostic, reporter questions."

"Hey, I noticed in the meeting today that you interrupted me and took over my pieces of the presentation," she recommends saying. "What was going on in your mind?"  

This way the onus will be on your co-worker to provide you with an explanation — one that you can address and then leave him with fewer reasons to do it again. 

Bronfenbrenner at Cornell said that women can also band together at the job and discuss problems with co-workers or bosses as a group. 

2. Prepare to ask

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To bring "authority to your ask" for a raise, keep a record of everything you've contributed to the company, said She Negotiates' Gates.

For example, the human resources manager who doubled her salary came equipped to her meeting with Excel spreadsheets, which detailed all of the quantifiable differences she'd made at the company.

Gates said some clients bring charts into their meeting, showing how profits or customers clearly rose (or complaints fell) as a result of their efforts. 

Also research what other people with your title are making.

"Know your market value," Gates said.

Payscale and Glassdoor can be useful resources. But Cornell's Bronfenbrenner said women shouldn't be afraid to go to their co-workers directly to ask them what they're earning.  

"Get the men to tell you what they make," she said. "You'll find people are willing to talk to you." (Some men might want to know if they're suffering from a pay unbalance, she said, due to something such as favoritism.)

When you're done with your survey, plug the information into a spreadsheet, Bronfenbrenner said. "You don't have to get all the workers, you can do a random sampling," she said. "And if the random sampling shows bias, you take it to the employer." 

Men still paid more than women: Study
Men still paid more than women: Study

As your meeting with your boss approaches, make a list of all the topics you'd like to talk about, such as your title, salary, vacation days, etc.

"You want to have things to play with," she said. For example, if your boss won't meet you fully on your salary request, you can ask for more vacation days. 

Gates at She Negotiates recommends women prepare and memorize a script. Start off with a quick rundown of what you plan to address, then move into an opening statement and finally make your requests.

Prepare for any possible objections your boss might have, Gates said, with a pivot that takes it into account. If your boss insists he can't raise your salary, dig for a reason. 

"Instead of turning pale and saying 'Okay,' say, 'I'm curious, what's behind your decision?'" Gates said. "Don't accept ambiguity."

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