June 08, 2023

How to ask for a raise

By Joy Blenman

Negotiating a raise isn’t easy, but it seems to come easier to men than women. Here are some tips to help you get what you deserve.

For decades, Canadian women have been fighting for gender equality in the workplace. They want their employers to recognize that they are just as capable as men and to pay them equally.

Despite their efforts, there is still a large disparity. Why? Because men have a much easier time getting a raise. That significantly impacts how much they are paid throughout their careers, perpetuating the gender pay gap. 

What’s the gender pay gap?

Canadian women continue to earn considerably less than men, regardless of their role or education level. According to the most recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s gender pay gap was 16.7% [2021]. That’s a staggering difference, and unfortunately, it persists at all levels of education.

Women feel the pay gap throughout their working years, and it has a serious impact on their retirement. If you’re earning less, you’re likely saving less. We know that women typically live longer than men, so they need to stretch their savings over more years than their male colleagues.

Many of the causes of the gender pay gap need to be addressed at a societal or cultural level. For example, women are more likely to:

However, there are things women can do to improve their earnings potential, from the moment they start their careers right up until retirement. The number one thing is don’t be afraid to ask for a raise. “Every single woman should have this conversation with her boss,” says Karlyn Percil, a Toronto-based life coach. “Do your research, and ask.”

5 tips to help you ask for a raise

1. Do your homework

Look up the salary range for roles similar to yours:

  • Contact HR at your company to ask for the salary bands for your role. This will tell you where your salary lands on the scale.
  • Find out what other companies are paying for similar jobs. You can find that information on sites like Glassdoor or by talking to a recruiter.

If you find out that you’re being paid fairly for the work you do, feel free to ask for a raise anyway, as it’s always good to flex that muscle. You can also work towards a promotion to get that raise.

2. Showcase your accomplishments

Personal branding coach Cher Jones suggests keeping a list of all your significant professional accomplishments. “Have a PowerPoint document on your desktop. Whenever something awesome happens, e.g., a ‘big win,’ you can drop a screenshot into your PowerPoint,” says Cher. On that note:

  • Think about what’s important to your employer and collect records of how you’ve supported your organization’s goals.
  • Add any proof points, such as campaigns or reports that you’ve worked on and the results you achieved. You can include emails with positive feedback from senior management or clients.

3. Be authentic

Your boss probably knows you pretty well. If you are normally polite and pleasant, try to avoid coming across as hard-nosed and aggressive when asking for a raise. It might just astonish rather than impress. Be yourself. You’ll be more comfortable and ultimately more convincing. 

4. Practice the conversation

Rehearse with family and friends until it becomes natural. “That way you’re not saying those words for the first time when you have your meeting,” says Jones.

If you’re still nervous, you can:

  • Psych yourself up for the meeting
  • Be upfront about your discomfort and move past it
  • Refer to notes to make sure you cover all your talking points

5. Watch your body language

“Make sure your non-verbal cues are aligned with what you’re saying,” says Percil. For example:

  • Stand up straight and don’t slouch. 
  • Maintain eye contact when speaking to your boss.

For more on the power of body language, see what psychologist Amy Cuddy has to say.

Break the glass ceiling

Asking for a raise can be an awkward conversation, but it can also be an empowering one. After all, every time you ask for a raise, you’re taking a step towards closing the gender pay gap for future generations.  

“When you ask for a raise, think about the women who will come after you,” says Percil. “Think about how you’re paving the way for them and how asking for what you deserve could ultimately get them not only better pay but also better recognition in your field, and what a great legacy that is.”

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