She Geeks Out Negotiating Talk

It’s not a secret that besides gender bias and discrimination, lack of negotiating is one of the biggest factors that contribute to the pay gap.

Negotiating can seem very intimidating. I thought I was good at it, but after taking a negotiating course this fall, getting advice from a pay equity consultant and talking to a lot of my friends I now know that I’m underpaid and could’ve asked for more from my current job.

Luckily I’m on a contract and can re-negotiate in a year, but if I wasn’t my future income would be severely affected. The base salary never changes, so no matter how many annual raises and bonuses I could get, I would always be behind.

——— recently published a report written by their lead data scientist that’s comprised of data from 100,000 interview requests and job offers. They use the term expectation gap a lot, which is based off of the expected salary that users set. The average woman on their platform sets their salary to $14,000 less than the average man. The expectation gap is larger for roles that have a higher ratio of men to women ( so.. tech), and it also widens as years of experience increase.

The one positive piece of information coming from this report is that women who set a salary in line with men tend to get it. This is especially true with women from Generation Z who set their expectations 2% higher than men, and on average get a final salary that is 7% higher than men.

So there is a positive outlook for closing the pay gap and who knows it might be closer sooner than we think.


Ok let’s jump into negotiating

More good news, women are actually naturally inclined to be better at negotiating in this situation. We generally have, at least partially, a collaborative negotiating style. We want everyone to feel good walking away and want the negotiating to be a positive experience. This attitude, combined with research and the right way to phrase things is a huge strength.

I’m sure many of you already do this, but research the salary ranges in your area and role extensively. Job title… City..

Look at the bureau of labor statistics, and the companies in your area that publicly post salaries.

Average all of that information together and that is what you will use.

For us, women in tech.. this is a great job market for us and we don’t need to beg for a job - we have options. The job of the HR rep is to save the company money. No matter how nice they are, and they certainly can be great people, the bottom line for them is getting the best candidate for the lowest price.

Before you even enter the picture, the job has been budgeted for by the company. They know exactly the range they want to spend on you. They know how much people with your same title in the company make. At large companies they even have someone who’s entire job is to analyze compensation package, called a compensation analyst.

So having nothing to do with you, this has all been set up and whoever is offering you a job has money play with, because if they gave you the highest number in the range initially and you asked for more they wouldn’t be able to offer you anything. They’re not going to go back to their manager and be like “Oh I screwed up can I have more money.”

So the money is there and you need to get it.


After June 2018 it will be illegal in Massachusetts for an employer to ask for your previous salary. Until then, you can just tell them that you’d prefer not to disclose this information. If they really push, which they shouldn’t, ask them why they need it and after they respond explain how the job you are interviewing for is different than your previous job so it doesn’t really make since to you to compare salaries.

And if you’re filling out an online application, just put $0.


In the phone screen, even before the interview, they’ll often ask you your range. All you know about the job is like 3 paragraphs. You want to get paid what the job is worth and you don’t know that yet.

To respond there are two strategies that I’ve heard — both of them have the same philosophy though which is to not throw out the first number.

In response you could simply ask, “Well, what do you have budgeted for this role”.

You could also say, “Well I’d love to make a million dollars, but I’m looking for a competitive offer on what this job is worth.”

It sounds pretty silly, but it has actually has been shown to anchor the range a little higher.

There are different negotiating styles, and if your style is to play into your gender role and have kind of like a cute answer like that - then this strategy could work for you. It ties into the collaborative style which tries to have casual and warm tone.

I actually could see myself using both of these strategies depending on the situation.


When you get the job offer email them back immediately, be enthusiastic, be collaborative. Ask for all of the paperwork, healthcare information and anything that they will want you to sign - NDAs, etc. A lot of the time they’ll give you these forms after you sign the job offer, but you definitley want to read it over before.

When you’re done reading everything, get back in touch and say “I love this offer, I’m really excited about this opportunity but here is what’s holding me back.” This is when the negotiation really starts.

Be aware of the strategy that some companies use to put you in a spot where you feel like you can’t or shouldn’t negotiate. If the rep is like, “Oh my god you’re so special and amazing, everyone starts at this level but since you’re so great i got you this special package.” You shouldn’t believe that and you should definitley still negotiate.

From all of the salary research that you did, before this conversation you will have set your reservation salary and your target salary. The reservation salary is the price that you’re not willing to go below and you need to be committed to that number and willing to walk away, it makes you a stronger negotiator because it allows you to really believe in what you’re saying. Though, when you do talk about ranges, don’t even mention your reservation salary - cite it as something higher. Also note your special skills. Any certifications, skills, or past experiences that you have to offer - along with the research you did, that should take you a step higher.

When they give you their range and explain them, tell them “I don’t consider myself an average developer, for me the range is closer to __ “

If they push you, back yourself up with data.

Also, during the negotiation write everything down. You can look down and very easily say, “well earlier you said this.” And, it can help you make it very clear what you’re agreeing to as you move on to negotiating other factors - such as vacation time, working remote (saving on commuting costs), having a flexible schedule, education costs and maybe even a different title. You should try to get as many things as possible. If you get everything you want, that’s not necessarily a successful negotiation, it could mean that you should’ve asked for more.

Regarding equity - only 5% of startup equity actually turn into something, so don’t take equity instead of money — sure there are some exceptions maybe if the founder was a former VP at Google — but in general if someone at a startup is offering you a below market salary in exchange for equity, really think hard about that.

Beyond equity, also conside healthcare costs - if they have really high premiums that is money taken away from your paycheck every month and should also be considered.

If it feels like they’re really trying to lowball you, dodging questions and trying to pressure you into a lower salary based on promising you something not in the contract in the future — you should really think about if you actually want to work there. If they do agree to promise you something in the future, make sure it is written in the contract.


Getting back to the collaborative strategy — some things that you can say during a negotiation to re-center it are “Maybe you can me understand this” or “I really hope we can find a solution that works for both of us.”

People are less likely to lie if you ask them a pessimistic question. For example, we all know yearly bonuses are not a guarantee - so to learn how plausible getting a bonus might be you could casually ask something like, “The company probably won’t hit it’s number to give out bonuses this year though, right?” vs. “How likely is the company giving out bonuses this year?”

Lastly, always say - “I’m surprised there is no signing bonus.”

I have a friend who is looking for a new job and she has a annual bonus scheduled for February — she is using that leverage to get them to her a signing bonus, because that is money that she is giving up.

You don’t need that reason though, signing bonuses are normal - and you deserve one and should get one.


Some last things to consider, if you’re not happy with the offer or the conversation doesn’t feel like it’s going well - ask them if they would mind if you thought it all over and had another call with them tomorrow or later that week. Giving them more time to think about it could increase the likelihood that you get a better offer.

Finally, don’t burn bridges. As someone who burned a lot of bridges when they were younger, I can tell you that this was not a great strategy. You never know, if you walk away, they might come back to you with a better offer - it definitely does happen.


The city of Boston offers free negotiating classes for women - so if you haven’t taken a negotiating class, get a group of friends together and go. Or post in the SGO slack channel and see if anyone wants to go with you. Taking a negotiating class is really empowering, I actually negotiated at the mechanic the other day, the place where women generally feel the least empowered.

Boston right now has a pay gap of 22%, we’re not the worst, but we’re not the best.

Things definitley are getting better, it’s an amazing time to be a woman. Still often super hard… yeah… but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. If we negotiate and get more money we could build up the net income of women in Boston. And not just us, the privileged people who are in this room right now — The more money we have the more power we have to make decisions and influence people.. and then help our sisters who are not here out and raise them up too.

So let’s learn how to negotiate, let’s be there for each other, and let’s make more money.