How to Ask for a Raise: Advice From Inspirational Businesswomen

Businesswoman sitting at table in restaurant listening to colleagues in meeting
Businesswoman sitting at table in restaurant listening to colleagues in meeting

By: Elana Lyn Gross

Did you know that women work for free 59 days out of the year?
It's true.

Even if you're fortunate like me, and you absolutely love your job, you probably wouldn't want to do it for free for 59 days in a row. Or, you know, at all.

In an analysis for The Huffington Post, Ariane Hegewisch (The Institute for Women's Policy Research) showed that women are working for free for 11 weeks and three days every year, while their male counterparts are being paid for every day of their hard work.

This means that women make, on average, 77.4 percent of what men make in a year.

And what does this mean for you? It means that one of your New Year's resolutions should be to ask for a raise at work.

I asked for a raise for the first time last year. Asking for what I thought I deserved and having a frank discussion about money was definitely outside of my comfort zone--but I did it anyway.

I researched the typical salary for my position, consulted mentors and confidants, practiced my points countless times, and found inspiration and confidence from several influential businesswomen I admire. I may not have Sheryl Sandberg or Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but I read their advice and it gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.

Here's what I learned from each of these inspirational women on asking for the salary you deserve:

Kate White, Career Expert and Bestselling Author

I read Kate White's book, I Shouldn't Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve, last year and loved it. When I found out she was speaking in New York, I immediately bought a ticket. One of the key takeaways from the event was Kate's advice on asking for a raise. She explained that you can't think to yourself, "I know they know I'm doing a good job" or "I know they'll give me a raise"--you have to tell your boss what you're doing and ask for the raise you deserve. It is crucial to be prepared for the meeting and let your boss know your big accomplishments. Don't be afraid to ask for more and don't assume that they'll give it to you if you don't ask. Kate said that one huge mistake in asking for a raise is making it about you. Remember to focus on what you're achieving and how you've added value to your company.

Alexa Von Tobel, Founder and CEO of LearnVest

In an interview with Refinery 29, Alexa said that you should ask for a raise every year or two years due to inflation of 2 or 3% per year. She recommends planning a meeting with your boss around the time of your review. According to Alexa, your strategy should be to: "Be proactive and find out how you can help the company, show them what you've brought and what you want to bring." You should also use sites like to find out what other people in the field are making. As Alexa says, the worst that can happen is that they say no!

Sallie Krawcheck, Former President of Global Wealth and Investment Management Division of Bank of America and Chair of Ellevate Network

Sallie has said that the best investment a woman can make is to ask for a raise. In an interview with NPR, she said that she doesn't recall a woman who worked for her ever declaring their desired salary, while many of their male colleagues did. Often, men will get the raise or bonus they ask for and women (who are less likely to ask) will get little or nothing as the amount of available resources dwindles. Moral of the story: make a good yourself.

Diane Von Furstenburg, Fashion Designer

In a NY Magazine column, Diane offers her advice on your approach when asking for a raise. She writes that the first question you have to ask yourself is if you actually deserve it and why. She recommends that you "be hard on yourself while you question yourself. If you think you deserve it, then go for it and explain the reason...Explain that you deserve the promotion and that with that, you will build ahead for the company. If you are absolutely sure that you deserve it, you will get it. But do NOT be a victim, be a leader."

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and Bestselling Author

In her bestselling book Lean In, Sheryl writes: "The goal of a successful negotiation is to achieve our objectives and continue to have people like us." She says that, when negotiating a raise, you should "think personally, act communally." Sheryl explains a technique by Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan: "This method requires smiling frequently, expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching the negotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance." In other words, although this interaction is ultimately about why you deserve to make more money, you also need to convey value to the other party. What does your company get out of giving you more money? Keep the negotiation friendly (if not civil) and ensure that your boss sees the transaction is two-sided.

I hope these tips give you the information and motivation you need to ask for a raise this year! No matter the outcome, you'll learn to advocate for yourself and truly understand and appreciate your worth.

Elana Lyn Gross is a blogger, content strategist, and an independent consultant.