Negotiation tricks for women

Want a pay rise? Here's a negotiation cheat sheet for women (in a sexist workplace). Print it out and stuff it in your bra.

by Jessica Bennett
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2020

I first negotiated a salary after finding out what a male friend doing a similar job was making – and that it was thousands (tens of thousands, actually) more than what I made. I’d never asked for a raise before, and the idea was daunting. Women may be comfortable talking about our bathroom habits and orgasms, but when it comes to money, we suddenly clam up.

Don’t take my negotiation advice because I’m a good negotiator. Take it because I’m a shitty one, which means I’ve parsed the literature, obsessively, to learn how to get better.


When establishing a number:

• ‘I’ve done some research, and it looks like the typical pay for somebody at my level is ——.’

 • ‘According to [or source of your choosing], the standard rate is ——.’ (Makes it about market rates, not what you’re worth. Walk into the meeting well researched.)

• ‘I typically get ——.’ (Useful because it provides a frame of reference.)

When making your case:

• ‘I feel great about what we accomplished this year.’ (Such a team player, aren’t you!)

• ‘Based on [insert your best evidence for why you deserve it], I’d like to propose ——.’ (Still nice but to the point.)

• ‘The standard inflation rate is ——. Based on my performance over [period of time], I’d like to discuss an increase of ——.’ (Great, you’ve done your research.)

• If you feel you are doing the work of someone at a higher pay grade than you, make that your basis of negotiation. ‘I’m a second-year associate doing the work of a third year. I’d like to make my compensation commensurate with my output.’

• Remember: Keep emotions out of it. 

When it starts to get heated:

• ‘I’m confident we can get to a place we both feel good about.’ (Collaborative, not confrontational.)

• ‘I think we are close.’ (Stays positive and keeps everyone engaged.)


‘This is higher than what we’ve budgeted for this role.’

• ‘I understand. I also believe I bring more to the table than the average candidate. [Insert how].’

‘We don’t think you’re ready for that role.’

• ‘Help me understand what I can do to be ready.’

‘We are thrilled to offer you (gut-punchingly lower amount than what you wanted)!’

• ‘Thank you so much. I’m really excited about the opportunity, but ——.'

• ‘I know that the typical salary range for this role is ——, and I’m really looking to at least match that figure. Are you able to get to that level?’

After an initial round of negotiation: ‘Unfortunately, we can only go as high as —— .’

• Stay silent for long enough to take a breath. Then say, ‘I appreciate your flexibility in trying to make this work. I really want this job, so I’m hoping we can see what we can do to make both sides comfortable.’ (No, you’re not offering a back rub, you’re talking about nonmonetary items like stock, flexibility, benefits.) ‘How flexible are you with [insert benefit]?’

• ‘I understand, and I am eager to accept. I’d like to set up a timeline to revisit the terms again in —— months. Is that something you’re open to?’ (Sets a concrete framework for a potential bump.)

This extract is from Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett. Published this month by Portfolio Penguin, £12.99

'How I'd ask for a pay rise' - Carolyn McCall

Sign up to MT's new Inspiring Women in Business bulletin for all the top insights and advice from Britain's most successful women. 

If you want the chance to hear from superstars like TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding or Studio 104's Jane Porter in person, why not book a ticket to MT's Inspiring Women In Business event on 16 November?


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

No, you don’t need a pregnancy loss policy

Opinion: Circumstances vary widely, so where does this microscopic attention to detail end?

6 tips for running a family business (without ruining Christmas)

Management Today asks family-led businesses how they work together successfully.

Nigel Farage: “If we had a Presidential model, I’d consider running”

Workplace Evolution Podcast: The former UKIP leader on how he convinced non-voters to vote Leave,...

What next for Hermes?

The delivery giant has had a bumper year, but faces a new challenge, says its...

How to ace a new job you're under-qualified for

One minute briefing: "I was just flying by the seat of my pants," says former...

Proof that employee well-being boosts long-term performance

Pitting investor returns against worker satisfaction is a lose-lose situation.