Knowing Your Worth

Knowing Your Worth

Email 7 mins

Executive Coach and Something Major CEO & Founder, Randi Braun, shares her secrets for a successful negotiation in this two part series. 

Part One: Knowing Your Worth

As an executive coach who spends her time with women leaders and entrepreneurs, there’s something important I want to talk to you about: Money. Specifically, how we handle negotiations and tough conversations on an unfair playing field.

I know first-hand how important this is. Not just because I grew up professionally in a sales and business development career before starting Something Major, my women’s leadership coaching and advisory firm. But because years ago on a cold December morning, in the throes of budgeting and bonus season, I opened up an email with the subject line “raises and budget.” 

Coming off my best year ever, hitting 125% of my annual revenue target and exceeding my sales goal by an additional $1,000,000, I expected good news. 

But, when I opened the email, I didn’t see my name. The email approving my male colleague’s very large raise had been sent to me by mistake. 

I was shocked. I was hurt. I was livid. Fortunately, the obvious pay discrepancy was so egregious that the “powers that be” acted swiftly to remedy their mistake. I got the raise I deserved, but I still wonder: what if I hadn’t seen? How much did they really value me and my work? That day, I promised myself that I would never let this happen again. 

In honor of equal pay day(s), Women’s History (Future) Month, and International Women’s Day, I’m sharing my secrets for successful salary negotiations. To be clear, these do not only work for women. However, they are designed with women in mind. But, we all can – and should – be working together to close the gender pay gap because equal pay is good for everyone, regardless of gender. 

The World Economic Forum predicts it will take us 136 years to close the pay gap. I don’t know about you: but I have goals and dreams that just can’t wait–and I’m guessing you do, too. 

If we want to see gender pay equality in our lifetimes, we all need to start talking about money and specifically salaries. Corporate pay scales remain opaque at best and often are a complete black box. In fact, many of us (~70%) only realize that we’re being underpaid when that information is revealed casually in passing by a male colleague or by mistake. 

The statistics are well-known but staggering every single time: 

  • 54% of women have found out that they were being paid less than a peer of another gender in the same role. A whopping 69% will learn that they’re being paid less than a peer by hearing it from a colleague. 
  • According to HIRED’s 2019 Wage Inequality in the Workplace study, 60% of the time men are offered higher salaries than women for the same job title at the same company (a gap that only widens for women of color). 

But there is something we all can and should do to change it. 

We need to talk about our salaries. We should continue to demand better policies around wage transparency and pay equity. 

According to, 72% of employed adults believe salary transparency is good for business. The majority – 69% – wish they had a better understanding of what fair pay is for their position and skill set at their company and in their local market. As long as we’re not talking openly about salaries and pay disparity – we’re all in the dark. We can’t see the finish line on our goals if we can’t shine the light. 

Until we have a more fair and open system, it’s important to know your own worth and ask for it. Read on to learn how. 

Six Steps For Refining and Redesigning Your Compensation With Your Employer

  1. Understand your market value: Yes, you are a one-of-a-kind magical unicorn upon which a monetary value cannot be placed. However, the work you do has real, measurable value – that’s why they pay you a salary to do it. The key is to know what numbers to aim for, settle for, and walk away from in salary negotiations. Fortunately, determining your fair market value has never been easier. Glassdoor is a fantastic place to start. You can search salaries at your target company, but you can (and should) also checkout the competition. After you search for 5-6 similar jobs in your same city, you’ll start to get a better sense of what the market value is for that job. Unfortunately, reported salaries aren’t segmented by gender and comp gets more complicated as seniority increases, but you can still see things like whether you’re on the low end or high end of a pay range. 
  2. Cool off before taking action: If you’re one of the nearly 70% of women who will learn you’re being underpaid by hearing it from a colleague, you’re probably going to be a bit… peeved. Feelings of anger, sadness, hurt, and betrayal are common and completely normal and healthy. What’s not healthy is trying to negotiate in a heightened emotional state. Take a walk, take some deep breaths, and sleep on it. Make a plan to address the issue when you’re clear-headed after the emotions subside so that the conversation is about your pay, not your “emotional reaction.”
  3. Lead with curiosity and collaborative question-asking, not combative accusations: Two of my favorite questions in a negotiation conversation are “Can you help me understand?” and “Can you say more about that?” It de-escalates a tense conversation and invites your stakeholders to have a collaborative conversation. This leads up to… 
  4. Come armed with a business case and figures. Unfortunately, great talent is often “anchored” to the first salary you received from the organization. That means, intentionally or not, those merit increases you receive have most often been based on a percentage of your previous pay, not what you’re doing today. Make sure you can tell an impact-driven story about (a) how you’ve measurably impacted the business — bring numbers and specifics — and (b) any data on marketplace benchmarks. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to go elsewhere. If you have exhausted your avenues for a compensation structure that accurately reflects your contributions and/or marketplace norms, you shouldn’t have any qualms about finding your next great opportunity. You deserve to work somewhere you feel valued. If you do decide to leave, take comfort in the fact that your departure will send a strong message—especially when you document a detailed example of gender pay discrepancy as your reason for leaving. Of course, I always recommend having your next great opportunity lined up before you give your notice… no matter how tempting a mic drop moment might be! 

Understanding your fair market value is just the beginning. Check back next week for Part Two on Asking Better & Getting More — my tips for salary negotiations. In the meantime, meet me on LinkedIn, IG, or my website, Something Major.

This material is not intended as investment advice and is not meant to suggest that any securities are suitable investments for any particular investor. Investment advice is only provided to Aura customers. All investments are subject to risk and may lose value. Past performance is not indicative of future results.