How to Determine Your Worth

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Every year, the National Committee on Pay Equity marks Equal Pay Day—the day on the calendar that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn as much as men the previous year. This year, that day is March 31 and represents a 79 percent average pay gap. 

It’s no wonder then that many women find salary negotiations to be a particularly fraught experience. How do you know what you should be making, not just in comparison with others in your position, but taking into account the very likely pay gap with male colleagues? Simply looking up salaries on sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com is enough to make your head spin as average salaries can vary enormously, and it remains largely taboo to discuss salaries even with colleagues, especially those you work with directly. 
To help, we’ve collected several tips and resources to assist you in determining your worth. So the next time you enter into salary negotiations, either at your current job after a performance review or as part of onboarding for a new job, you’ll be ready. 

Researching Salaries for Comparable Positions

The first thing most people do when approaching a job offer or a pay review is to research the posted salaries on sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com. This is a good starting point and can offer vital context to the discussion. However, keep in mind several things when using these sites:

  • This is public information that has been reported by employees. It is not reported by the employer in most cases and therefore may not be entirely accurate. It may also take into account matters such as bonuses or seniority, which don’t necessarily apply to your situation. 
  • It’s not a full representation of everyone in the role. For every reported salary, there may be hundreds more that are not reported. With limited data to draw from, there will be outliers in both directions. A pure average from these sites may not be representative of your actual worth. 

With those things said, these sites do offer tremendous value in providing a baseline against which to measure your own situation. If you have a very specific job title and see that the self-posted salaries on these sites are consistently significantly higher than your own, then you know to ask for more money. 

To help, there are several calculators you can use that leverage this data. It can be useful to look at the data independently to see the circumstances behind each salary, but in addition, use the following to get a more impartial, quantitative estimate of what your salary should be:

  • Glassdoor Salary Calculator—Using your title, company, location, and experience, Glassdoor pulls from its database to provide a private salary estimate on its website. It balances this against several factors like location, cost of living, open job positions, and demand for your skills. 
  • PayScale—PayScale is designed to pull data from a diverse database across multiple platforms to help you estimate salary for a current job or job offer. It provides a detailed survey that captures dozens of data points about your position, experience, and responsibilities before providing a pay range and your current performance against that scale. 
  • The Salary Project—Career Contessa created the Salary Project to collect data from hundreds of women around the globe on salaries and help them to better understand where they currently rank and what they should ask for. 

There are more sites than this, however, and each of them will likely give you a different figure, but combining different views and building up an overall picture of the field should give you a better understanding of the salary range associated with people in your position.

Leveraging Your Network

Using the data you capture from these free salary-estimation websites, you now have a range of potential salaries, recommendations based on your current location and experience, and possibly even specific examples of women in the field and what they are making right now.  

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have a single salary figure in mind, however. At this stage, unless you have a very clear idea of what you intend to ask for, you can leverage your network to request further input. This has many benefits, including the following:

  • Immediate Feedback—Most job seekers get feedback on their salary requests only when they make them. By asking your colleagues, women in your network, and your friends, you get personalized feedback on your request. If you’re too conservative, too aggressive, or just way off, this is one of the safest ways to find out. 
  • Outside Perspective—You also get an outside perspective. We are each our own toughest critic and sometimes it takes the people we love and respect to point that out. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional feedback if you’re unsure of what to do next. 
  • Support—Asking for money is difficult. Glassdoor conducted a study recently that showed men are three times more successful at improving their salary than women. And millennials are 60 percent less likely to negotiate salary after a job offer. Combined, it means a lot of women leave money on the table. Your support network can help you overcome this stigma and take the action that’s most likely to benefit you. 

Your network is an invaluable resource that will help you stay the course and use the data you’ve captured to push for what you’re worth. 

Making Sure You Get Paid

Salary is one of the most stressful components of any negotiation. With so many factors working against women in these situations, it’s important to be prepared as possible. Know your worth, have a support network around you to challenge and validate your decisions, and make your voice heard when it comes to setting your salary. 

With the right combination of preparation and persistence, you can do your part to close the gender pay gap once and for all.

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