Making Less Than the Guys at Work? Learn How to Get Your Fair Share!

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Think the days of women making less money than men are over? Think again. In cities across the U.S. women are making up to $20,000 less than men working the same number of hours, according to a new report by 24/7Wallstreet.com. (The worst-paying city for women? Provo-Orem, Utah!) What to do if you suspect that your salary is lower than what your male counterparts are making? We talked to the pros to find out:

Do your research
Before you storm into your boss’s office and start slinging accusations, make sure you’re truly being underpaid. Find out what the average salary is for your job by doing research on Salary.com, PayScale.com or GlassDoor.com; these sites take geography as well as industry averages into account to give you a snapshot of what you should be earning.  “You can’t use coworkers’ salaries as the basis for negotiation because it brings emotion into the situation–and that won’t have a good outcome,” says Dr. Janet Scarborough-Civitelli, a psychologist specializing in career advancement.

Once you’ve figured out how much your job is really worth, take your workplace into consideration, says Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and author of I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know. “If your company is small or is in going through a tough time financially, they might not be able to pay you the market rate, even if they wanted to.”

Strengthen your negotiating skills
After you’ve figured out the fair market rate, it’s time to practice asking for it. “Don’t let the first time you use your negotiating skills be when you’re asking for a raise,” says Dr. Scarborough-Civitelli. “Some women are so scared of negotiating they just want to get it over with and give up when they encounter any push back.” To build confidence, practice your pitch by taking a negotiation class or talking to a career coach.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
Schedule a meeting with your boss about five to six weeks before your company tends to give raises, suggests White. That way your manager has plenty of time to consider your request. If your company doesn’t give raises on a regular basis, pitch your pay increase after you’ve had a significant accomplishment so that your latest achievement is fresh in your boss’ mind.

Going into your meeting, be sure to leave your emotions at the door. “Employers don’t pay you market rate to make you happy, they do it to stay competitive and retain top talent,” says Dr. Scarborough-Civitelli. “So you need to prove that you are top talent.” And even though you may want to accuse your boss of treating you unfairly, it’s important to remember that negotiation isn’t about your personal characteristics, it’s about the value you bring to the company.

If, for whatever reason, your manager rejects your proposal, use the opportunity to ask for a title change, which can help you land a better job (and better pay) later, says White.

No luck? Move on.
“If you don’t get a raise, look elsewhere,” says White. And when you’re interviewing, try to avoid revealing your salary to your prospective employer. “If the question comes up, just say, ‘My past salary was not reflective of the work I’ve done with that company so I’d rather not say how much it was.” Take heart: chances are your next career move will be for the better!

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