And close the wage gap for good.

FEATURE: How to Ask for a Raise in Dark Times
Credit: Shanee Benjamin

Talking about money isn’t as taboo as it used to be. But for a woman in the workforce, asking for a raise can feel daunting — almost as daunting as checking the news first thing in the morning, knowing you'll be hit with stories about the coronavirus pandemic, police brutality, and who was swiftly “canceled” overnight.

Firmly stating, “This is what I want. This is what I deserve,” can feel unnatural and risky, like going commando — and frankly, that’s because society has always led us to believe standing up for ourselves professionally is inherently wrong and will lead to immediate consequences. But inquiring about money and calling out inequities where you see them isn’t wrong. And we could all use that occasional reminder. 

Even when the world is facing dark and difficult times, you should still keep your eye on the green prize. According to a recent article from Forbes, the UK government is already using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to roll back forward-thinking measures that were put in place to hold companies accountable for closing the gender pay gap, telling businesses they don't need to report their wage inequity results this year. In addition, a story from Business Insider notes that as employees are laid off or furloughed and then rehired, some companies may deem equal pay a "non-essential" issue, and not prioritize it while navigating their new normal. 

The world is spinning out of control, and it’s easy to get distracted from the issue of closing the pay gap. But companies must realize that women will be disproportionately affected by the economic crisis following the pandemic, as they lose their jobs — especially in the service or travel industries, where female employment is higher than male employment, and where the pandemic is taking a hefty toll — and take on larger childcare roles. In turn, women must speak up, get paid, and define the future themselves. 

Earning more starts with debunking your “ladylike” thoughts on moola. So...

Is it appropriate to ask for a raise right now?

Tiffany Aliche, financial educator and founder of The Budgetnista, a financial education blog, says it’s “absolutely” OK to ask for more at this moment in time if your employer isn’t squeezed by the fallout from the pandemic. “It’s appropriate to do so if you’re in a company that’s actually doing well during these times.” In other words, if teams and budgets are getting slashed where you work, asking for a raise is not appropriate. (It’s a “read the room” kind of situation.) 

However, if your company is doing the same or better, consider it a green light and lean into the moment. Aliche says highlighting extra responsibilities or skills you’ve taken on to help your company remain or become successful can pave the way for a promotion or even an entirely new position.

What do you need to prepare beforehand?

This will require some prep work. Aliche suggests making a folder on your computer called a “brag book” or “go me,” where you can collect anything amazing you’ve done at work, from huge campaigns that drove in hundreds of new clients, to team projects you’ve contributed to. Everything included in your brag book should clearly show how you saved your company money, or made your company money. “You want to make it quantifiable,” says Aliche, even though your initial instinct may be to leverage a raise with empathy or persuasion.

“Women tend to lean more into eliciting the emotional response of ‘why’ they should be paid more,” she says, adding “the truth of the matter is that doesn’t move most people.” Numbers, on the contrary, can clearly present what you bring to the table. Aliche recalls when her friend, who is an attorney for a hospital, asked for a raise. She walked into the conversation with receipts showing how she saved the hospital $10 million over the previous five years, between settling unfair lawsuits and litigating others. It made the decision clear: Her boss could give her a raise or be, in Aliche’s words, “foolish.” 

It’s possible to quantify your success like this, even if your  job consists of administrative tasks from nine to five. You can show how you efficiently processed payments, or scheduled meetings quicker than anyone else. Research the going rate for your position at comparable companies, and know what the person before you made, and how much of a raise you’re looking for, such as 10 or 15 percent of your current salary. Then you’ll truly be unstoppable.

Remember, you can always negotiate more time off or better hours if your employer doesn’t give you the amount you asked for.

Of course, good things don’t always come in money form. If you want to work from home regularly, take a longer maternity leave, or wake up to a bonus in your bank account, you can leverage those deals as well. “This is not just the time to ask for a raise if your company’s doing well,” says Aliche. “This is also a great time to ask for these added bonuses that may mean more to you than money,” because they give you flexibility, validation, and control.

Confidence is essential.

Just don’t forget to pack your confidence. Going into your meeting, the firepower of financial literacy will boost your ego. Don’t be afraid to try a mantra, like the ones from Tracee Ellis Ross in the “Bish Better Have My Money” episode of the Go Off, Sis podcast — which is a must-listen, by the way. Speaking of her own experience at the negotiating table, Ross says “I said to myself, now instead of taking what I can get, I need to go for what I want.” It’s that abundance mindset that will remind you, “I belong in this room,” before even walking into it.

Aliche advises going on interviews beforehand so you can talk about your worth. Even if you’re not planning to leave your company, she says, “You can get practice advocating for yourself, without the pressure of, ‘What if they say no?’”

Here’s how to set up the conversation.

Once you know your numbers and have packed your confidence, set up your meeting. Aliche says the most effective way to do this is by contacting your boss through email or Slack with a message saying, “I’d like to get on your calendar.” You should add a note like, “I really love working here, and I’d love to talk about what increasing my role at this company would look like.” About two or three days before your meeting, share your brag book with your boss, so they can review your accomplishments and get the gist of what’s to come.

OK, you collected your numbers and you’re getting paid less than The Man.

Typical. This situation calls for taking your efforts to the next level and putting your brag book in writing during negotiations. Aliche says include your education, time at the company, and ‘go me’ components, with the firm intention of leaving your company if you don’t get what’s fair. After all, your company may not want to make a change. The bias or boys’ club may be “outside of your scope of influence.”

If that’s the case, you’re not taking a loss. Aliche powerfully notes, “You can’t control what your employer does, but what you can control is what you bring to the table.” By showing up fully to your work, you’ll be able to land the next, better, and higher-paying gig. This also goes for a situation where your company isn’t doing well due to the current climate, and you’re in danger of getting cut. Doing your best will bring you undeniable growth, financially and professionally.

Deliver excellence.

In her killer book You Are a Badass at Making Money, success coach and New York Times bestselling author Jen Sincero puts it this way: “Giving and receiving money is an energetic exchange between people, and your job is to consciously get your frequency in alignment with the money you desire.” Delivering excellence, as Aliche says, will put you on this frequency. It will bring about opportunity, even during the chaotic and ever-changing year of 2020.

“When you deliver excellence to the table, a space is always held for you," says Aliche. "You can write your own ticket, because most people are not willing to do the work required to deliver excellence." That’s exactly how she landed a gig on the latest season of Netflix’s Queer Eye, handing a copy of her financial plan to makeover recipient Tyreek Wanamaker. “People will hear about you. There are people who can literally get any job, anywhere. So become one of those people.” 

You have the power to do so, and take the raise you desire and deserve.