money salary negotiation women boomersWhen I entered the workforce in the ‘80s, impersonating men was the working women’s rally call.  We may not have stated it aloud but we sure did in our scarves tied in bows and shoulder pads. Unfortunately the image will forever be embedded in my mind.

Thankfully we have come a long way baby in our work fashion but we still have a way to go when it come to salaries. I knew this intellectually but it wasn’t until a dinner with college friends that I truly grasped it viscerally. There we were, a group of professional women 20 odd years out of college and most with graduate degrees. Courageously one of my friends shared that she recently discovered a male colleague was making $30,000 more in salary than she.  $30,000!  We may hear the statistics of  women earning 77 cents to every dollar men earn,  but somehow it doesn’t hit the gut quite the same as when a friend shares the painful experience. $30,000! That’s half a year’s college tuition. That’s a car.  That’s the down payment for a home.  That’s an improved retirement since 401K limits and social security benefits are based on salary.

A prior Bentley University  alumnae dinner came to mind as the shock of the statement was settling.  At that dinner I sat with a VP of Human Resources who stated all men negotiate his salary while no women do.  So, I asked my friend:

“Did you negotiate your salary when you were hired?”


“Did anyone negotiate her salary?” I asked the group.




Here I was, the odd person out. I was the only one who had ever negotiated a salary.  All along I thought I was typical but I was a sales professional and negotiated for a living. Following up with my friend:

“Will you ask for a raise?”

“I can’t.  We have salary confidentiality.  It will be cause for dismissal if I mention the other salary.”

“You can still negotiate without referencing it.”

“I’m not sure.”

Almost two years later and I don’t know if my friend ever negotiated a salary adjustment.  We’ve let the personal aspect of the subject stay personal though it was the impetus for me to learn, write, coach, and advocate for women to actively negotiate their salaries. In the process I have learned that it is critical to start negotiating your salary with your first job.  Young women who do not negotiate their salary can lose more than $500,000 during their career. Doesn’t that make the $30,000 seem small?

It’s a little late to go back and negotiate our first job but it is not too late for our daughters.  Should any young woman be in your life you should encourage her to use the college career center.  “Teaching young women that it [salary negotiation] is acceptable, expected and even valued, is so important,” states Sallyann Kakas, Director of Career Development at Pine Manor College.    Sallyann continues, “It does show the hiring manager you are someone to be reckoned with, that you value yourself.”

Here are some other things you can share now with your daughters:

  1. The negotiation starts when a company posts a job without a salary. It continues with salary history and desired income questions.
  2. Do NOT supply your salary history (leave blank or enter 0 if needed) or desired income (answer “competitive salary”).
  3. Research the market value of the job(s) you want before you apply. and trade associations are great resources.
  4. The initial salary offered is NEVER the highest amount available.
  5. Show excitement for the job but continue the negotiation by stating the salary seems low based on the job’s current market value.

And for us ladies, who are past our first job, remember it’s never too late to learn a new trick.  You too can use the same information for your next raise or new job.

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Salary Negotiation Lessons For Our Daughters (and Ourselves) was last modified: by

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