Negotiating a better salary can be a daunting prospect at the best of times but research has consistently shown that women perform particularly poorly when it comes to these conversations. Add to this the pay difference between male and female lawyers – which, according to recent Law Society data, stands at around one third— and it becomes clear that women in particular need to rethink how they approach salary negotiations.

Start the conversation

The first, and potentially most difficult step, is to initiate the discussion. The topic is likely to come up naturally when commencing a new job or changing roles but is harder at other times. Annual reviews are a good opportunity to take advantage of an easy opening where pay can be discussed. Be direct and ask for a raise – talking around the issue or alluding to it won’t get you anywhere and is a mistake women frequently make more than men.

Get your facts together

It is important to be able to back up any request for pay increase with current data on average pay in the relevant sector. Having some specific examples of salary ranges for your role will add weight to your argument and will ensure your expectations are realistic. Women have been shown to fall down on preparation in particular even though the stats are likely to work in their favour. See our salary surveys for some help with this.

Show your value

Treat the conversation like a job interview— point out your value to the team and your strengths. Highlight your previous achievements and ways you can contribute to the organisation’s profits and success. Focus on how you are an asset— not on why you need the money.

Think of the bigger picture

Be prepared to be flexible and take other benefits into account. Extra holidays, training opportunities or travel might be worth just as much to you as an increased salary. Consider these alternatives and know what you’re willing to accept— or make suggestions if your employer doesn’t bring them up. Men excel at this and reap the rewards as a consequence.

A lawyer considering her options before negotiating a packageBe prepared to negotiate

If possible, try to have your employer be the first to suggest a figure. Be prepared with a counter-offer and don’t feel obliged to accept the first offer. Women are much more likely to take “no” for an answer, while men will often continue to bargain. If you have to make the first suggestion, choose a figure in the mid-to-high range for your role and industry, backed up by your research.

Don’t undervalue yourself

There may be valid reasons why the organisation is not in a position to offer you a salary increase despite your best bargaining skills. Always act in a professional manner if your proposal is not accepted. Women tend to take rejection in the workplace much more personally than men so remember that it’s just business. If appropriate, try to set a date for a salary review in the future or agree to an increase if specific targets are met. If, however, you feel like you aren’t being compensated for your true worth, it may be time to look elsewhere.