Secure The Bag: How Zillennials Should Negotiate Their Salaries

Let’s determine why salary negotiation challenges racial disparities in the workplace.

You don’t have to accept the initial salary a job offers, know your worth and add tax by negotiating. While the process of negotiating can be intimidating, it’s a bold move that can set you up for financial success. According to the US Government Accountability Office, in 2021, Black women only earned 63 cents to every dollar white men earned. 

Unfortunately, Black women experience a greater gender pay wage gap due to racial bias and discrimination. We can work to solve this problem by being encouraged to negotiate at the start of our careers and level the playing field. When young Black women ask for their desired salaries, they’re disrupting the systemic inequalities put in place to hold us back. 

Time is money. Being paid your desired salary can increase job satisfaction by giving you a sense of value and appreciation for your skills. This can lead to motivation and more engagement at the office or working from home.

Chelsea Frimpong is a 32-year-old freelance creative producer in the marketing and advertising industry located in Brooklyn, New York. She successfully negotiated her previous role’s salary. “When I shifted into the marketing & advertising industry, I was interviewing with a creative agency as a producer and they offered me the role with a low salary,” Frimpong tells GU. “To my benefit, they had the salary range on their company website.”

Frimpong pivoted from a career in public health and advocated for herself by asking for a higher salary based on her experience. “Even though I had completely shifted careers from public health, I knew that I had years of experience regardless if it was in the same industry and the lowest wouldn’t work for me,” she said. In return, getting paid her desired salary encouraged her to want to produce her best work for her colleagues.

Read ‘How Gen Z’ers Should Approach Financial Literacy’

Feeling like your work isn’t valued and being underpaid can negatively impact your mental health. Take it from a former public relations coordinator, who did not negotiate their salary and left money on the table as a 23-year-old. This decision led to burnout from the fast-paced environment and heavy regret. 

The reluctance to negotiate salary can stem from believing you should simply be grateful for being offered the position. However, it’s important to understand that you’re a valuable asset who has the right to negotiate your salary in any role. The worst a company can do is tell you no, and that’s okay. 

According to Fast Company, 18.4% of job satisfaction is attributed to company culture and values, whereas compensation and benefits account for 10.9%. Although money may not make up the majority of job satisfaction, it plays a vital role and will affect your living expenses and, ultimately, your lifestyle.

Young Black women negotiating early in their careers challenge the racial disparities that we may face daily in the workplace. Black women are more likely to experience racial bias in the hiring process or when being considered for promotion. We are also less likely to report that our managers check in on our well-being or assist with managing deadlines. 

However, even though experiencing these racial disparities, we are more likely to push our employers to do better with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. These efforts have a positive impact on all people of color in the workplace because they expand recruitment opportunities, engage a variety of perspectives, and are geared to create an environment where employees feel safe and feel heard. 

Salary negotiation is a step towards challenging these biases because it empowers us to take control of our financial goals. It can also be the foundation for career advancements leading to significant raises and promotions down the line. When you negotiate your salary, you’re also working towards closing the gender pay wage gap. 

The Equal Pay Act requires “that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal.” However, most companies do not abide by the law. Despite Black women having the highest labor force participation compared to other women, on average, we are only paid 67 cents for every dollar paid to white men. 

Most recently, actress Taraji P. Henson spoke about her pay disparities within the entertainment industry in a recent interview with Sirius XM, “I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do, being paid a fraction of the cost,” Henson says vulnerably.. “I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired,” she continued. As a Black woman, you deserve to be paid equal to your white counterparts. 

JoAnna Niles, 37, is a digital project manager based in New York City. She successfully negotiated a 15% increase after a performance review as a Support Engineer in the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry at 28 years old. “Know your worth and have the proof to back up your argument. Don’t be afraid to turn down a salary that doesn’t match your expertise,” said Niles. 

Although it can be scary to have a tough salary conversation due to fear of rejection or lack of industry experience, it’s necessary because you don’t want to sell yourself short. Be confident in your abilities by communicating your strengths. Highlight your top accomplishments listed on your resume and practice rehearsing a salary negotiation pitch with someone you trust. Also, know that many employers expect salary negotiation because it’s standard practice. You’re being offered the job because your skills and experience impressed the employer. 

Frimpong says to stand firm on your asking price and research market value, “Ask the recruiter or hiring manager what the budget range is for the role to determine your asking price. Also, keep in mind that the employer will most likely meet your asking price in the middle.”

She believes recruiters can also be helpful in the negotiation process by being honest if a candidate’s asking salary range is actually lower than the company’s budget. By negotiating your salary, you’re taking control of your financial destiny and being your own ally. Know your worth in the workplace and negotiate because you deserve your desired salary.

“I think it’s really important if you start doing it as soon as you can,” suggests Frimpong.”It’s okay if you don’t receive the salary you want on the first job, but at least you practiced the skill of advocating for yourself and you can continue to do that.”

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