Our Salary Paths series aims to give fellow Elphas a reference point for salary negotiations and encourage more women to talk about compensation. We hope that opening up the conversation will contribute to more pay transparency and equitable pay.
Interested in sharing your Salary Path with us? Please fill out this form here and we will get back to you (can be posted anonymously, too! 😉 ).
My advice may seem like the opposite you have heard in your career. Since most of the time, we hear that women in tech need to be “more assertive” and “speak up” to be more like men. However, I have found most of my successes in my career come from a place of calm and quiet confidence. The two largest raises I have received in my career, I gave very little feedback and let the employer be the one to speak first. This has led me to tripling my salary!
I started my career in Aerospace with an internship. Two simultaneous internships at NASA Ames, to be exact. I had studied Astrophysics in school and was ready and anxious to work in space. The internship didn't pay much, of course, but I looked at it as a stepping stone to something better, and that's exactly what I got! I caught wind of a commercial Aerospace company in the Bay area that I had never heard of and applied for an entry-level position. I got a response back saying that, based on my background, they had another position in mind. I applied for it immediately, seeing as I just wanted to get my foot in the door. I interviewed and was told they would like to extend an offer. I was thrilled and had no expectations for salary. Having just worked low-paying internships, I was ready to take anything. They asked me for an expected range, and I gave them one. To my (non) surprise, the offer came in at the bottom of my range. But I didn't mind, I was just starting out, and I would have worked for free!
Going forward with raises and other job offers, I came to see that this was a pattern. I would receive offers that would barely meet my minimum range, or match my previous salary. This was becoming discouraging. I never really had the confidence to demand a higher raise, or to give a high salary range for an offer, so it was very hard to make growth. I am just naturally shy, silent, and not very confident, so doing any kind of negotiating was hard for me.
Then something really changed my perspective. My husband started a new career in technical Sales and was really starting to outpace me in salary, even though we had very similar backgrounds. Of course, my initial thought was because he is a man, people just give him more. However, I also knew that my husband was slightly socially awkward like me. So I asked him how he manages negotiations with his customers so well, and he stated that he never gives the first number. The first person to give a number “loses” every time. Because that then becomes the anchor, and can only make small changes from there. This strategy definitely seemed like something I could do! Refrain from being pushy with numbers, and let the other talk first. Great!
So in my next big interview, I did just that. I was interviewing for a startup, and they asked me what salary I was expecting. I simply said, “whatever the market rate is for this job”, and left it at that. My offer came in at almost 50% more than I currently made! I never could have imagined making that much more! I took this to my current manager and simply explained this offer was very strong and hard to pass up. He asked me how much it would take to get me to stay, and I simply stated, “I am not sure, I really haven’t had time to consider that.” Well, my boss moved forward quickly and came back with an offer that matched! I gladly accepted.
Fast forward to my current job, still in Aerospace with no compromise on what I enjoy doing for a living, and I have used this same strategy to obtain another ~30% raise in my salary by simply telling the recruiter that I had no input for how much I should make at this new job. With little to no information, they came back with a strong offer that again exceeded my expectations, instead of barely meeting my minimum. This method has really served me well, and for a woman who has the courage to come back and negotiate on a first offer, this gives a much better starting point.