A Guide To Negotiating Salary for Women in Tech

Dearest female readers: I've heard from both the Tech Ladies and Women in Product Facebook groups that the #1 question(s) received have to do with how to negotiate salary for a new job.

I have read extensively on this subject and, although I am indeed no expert (nor a VP), I can give you some pointers and resources towards this issue. 

Men, dearest men, I do not want to dissuade you from indulging in this article as well. You are also welcome. But women in tech have a specific problem: As our careers progress, every time we accept less for our next move, it compounds over the course of our careers until we're far less than you guys. I am not blaming men for this situation, just highlighting that women in tech need to be more aggressive in negotiation so we can fix this. Don't worry men, you guys are (generally) doing just fine!

How do you negotiate the best possible offer for your next job?


1 - Decide what you want

You can't ask for what you want unless you know what you want.

Before you even interview at a job you really want, have a vision of what you're targeting. Yes, this is in the realm of 'visualization' that life coaches will tell you to do. It sounds uber cheesy, but if there's an open role that you are pumped about, then take a moment to visualize yourself working there, what your title is going to be and how much you're going make. (Pro tip: Maybe check on Glassdoor before the last part so you know what salary ranges are even possible, but don't take Glassdoor or other estimates as a rule.)

Write it down. Preferably somewhere that no one else will see, because it would be super embarrassing if someone were to read your innermost thoughts pumping yourself up about salary negotiation.

2 - Know the three (main) pillars of salary negotiation

When you receive an offer and need to negotiate, there are three main areas you need to focus on - not just salary.

  1. Title

  2. Base Salary

  3. Extras (bonus, equity, vacation days, etc.)

Which is most important to you? (All three? Yeah, me too.) Decide before you talk to the recruiter/ hiring manager what you're targeted for all three areas.

Then prioritize them. Hey, we're product managers. You should be really good at prioritizing things.

Example: The offer is for:

1 - Title: Product manager
2 - Base salary of 7000 shekels/year
3 - Bonus is (max) 10% of salary, 3 weeks PTO.

Your Priorities (example): Your top priority is base salary. You know there's no wiggle room on the bonus, since it's company standard. Lower priorities are title - Sr. product manager would be nice - and a week more of PTO bringing it to 4 weeks of time off.

3 - Be in a good place before you negotiate

Listen to your favorite song, do some power poses in the bathroom, do some pushups or meditate for 5 minutes prior - whatever you need to do to get in a good headspace before going into negotiation. I once attempted a salary negotiation by phone 2 minutes after getting off a plane. It didn't go well.

4 - Ask, and then stop talking

Practice this in front of the mirror before you get into a conversation with the recruiter. Yes, it's going to feel extremely awkward and I don't recommend doing it in a public place.

When we're nervous we tend to talk a lot more than is necessary. This gets us into trouble because while we're doing all that talking, we don't give the other side a chance to respond to our demands.

Ask for what you want, and then let it hang.


First call:

You: "There are a few items in the offer I wanted to talk to you about. Let's start with base salary- in the offer at 7000 sheckles. Can we bump that up to 7500 - 7700?" <-- notice she's starting with her top priority first. Don't water it down with other requests yet. Focus on the top priority!

Then shut up. Quiet. Zip it. There may be an awkward silence. Awkward situations are necessary in order to make progress. Talking more will not make them give you more money. I promise you, it will not.

Recruiter: "Let me see what I can do."

Next Call: 

Recruiter: "Good news. I was able to get the base salary to 7500 shekels."  <-- they'll always give you the bottom of your range, so make sure the very bottom of your range is what you're actually targeting.

You: "Oh that's great news! Thanks. Just one more question - I have 5 weeks of PTO at my current job. Is there any way I could get 4 weeks of PTO rather than the 3 weeks stated in the offer?"

Recruiter: "That's company policy and it's actually not flexible at all. I've been unsuccessful asking for those requests to be approved in the past."

You: "I understand. Thanks for your help in working with me on the base salary. I'll wait for the updated written offer, and I'll sign it right away once I have it."

I didn't make this technique up. I'm not that genius. I got this from Never Split the Difference, the best book on negotiation I've ever read, and which I have permanently downloaded to my Audible library for quick reference when I'm in a jam. I've written about the book here. You can see my whole reading list here

5 - P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E.

This process may take some time. Patience is crucial to negotiation. You must chill out. I realize how annoying it is to be told to chill out. It's a personal struggle of mine, and I've been told to 'chill out' nearly my entire life. I have to actively work on it every day.

Meditate. Breath. Be aware of the pace of your speech. Be cool like a cucumber. It may take a few days for the recruiter to get back to you with increased salary base or PTO requests.


In Sum:

Be prepared. Know what you want. Do not be afraid to ask for it. Practice the conversation in your head before hand. Anticipate pushback. Know what to ask for next, if you get a 'no' for your first ask. Men are (typically) not afraid to ask for things. We should also not be afraid to ask for things.

I'll finish this post out with some very valuable advice from Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference

No deal is better than a better than a bad deal.

Don't take a bad deal.