# Should I point out that I'm a woman when negotiating starting salary?

The pay gap between men and women has been in the news lately so I'm wondering if it would be an appropriate strategy to use this when negotiating a starting salary at a new company as a Senior Software Engineer.

Them: "What salary range are you looking for"?

Me: "I'm sure you will provide an appropriate offer given my qualifications and experience..."

Do I finish this sentence by subtly implying that they shouldn't pay me less than men in the same position?

Options:

• given the current focus on gender pay equity.
• that would not come under scrutiny if a gender gap analysis was done on your payroll.
• that is in line with male colleagues.
• ...
• Comments are not for extended discussion or arguments about the severity of wage gaps; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 16 '16 at 17:58
• My somewhat irreverent take on it: If the person you're talking with can't tell you're a woman, then they won't pay you less for being a woman. And if they can, then they already know you're a woman, so what good would it do to point that out? – Mason Wheeler Jun 17 '16 at 14:17
• I am shocked that you are even considering the ...that would not come under scrutiny if a gender gap analysis was done on your payroll. part. – apriori Jun 20 '16 at 12:22
• Is it a good idea to passive-aggressively accuse a potential employer of sexism/gender-discriminatory practices? It's mind-boggling and sad that this question was even asked, let alone that that 89 people here considered this worthy of an upvote. – HopelessN00b Jun 20 '16 at 18:30
• @AakashM Yes, and it's sad that 93 people think a question about accusing an employer of being sexist is a good question for this site. That's not a good question for any site, it's a clip on some World's Worst Interviews "reality" TV show. – HopelessN00b Jun 21 '16 at 13:40

Ok, as a woman who works in the IT industry and has worked as a Senior Software Engineer for many years, my answer is simply Don't bring gender into the equation!

I know what I am prepared to work for. I know what market rate is for someone of my qualifications and experience. There aren't two market rates, one for men and one for women. Negotiate for the salary that fits your expectations, qualifications and experience.

Honestly, as a new person coming in to a new organisation, you probably have a better chance at hitting market rate, rather than someone going up the ranks within an organisation. The differential at that point is normally because of promotions or lack thereof.

So all I can suggest is to educate yourself on what is the appropriate market rate for your experience, and, decide what you are prepared to work for, and go from there.

I'm a great software engineer but a lousy negotiator. I'm looking for an easy way to get fair pay

The most important thing to remember in any negotiation is don't sell yourself short. There is no easy way around that. I'm not the best negotiator myself, but I know what is fair and what I'm prepared to work for. If that isn't met, then move on.

• Following up on this, men are usually lousy negotiators too. Self-belief is not a gender-specific thing. The so-called "alpha males" swaggering in are usually outliers; and as an engineer I am less likely to give a job to them because they're usually not great team players. I'd rather see someone say "I can do this job because look at all the similar work I've already done", rather than "I can do this job because I IS AWESOME, BRO!!!!" (Thank you, we'll be in touch. Next...) – Graham Jun 16 '16 at 15:17
• Agreed. I (a woman) was going to say the same thing, so I'm glad I read the responses first. :) Like you and Joe Strazzere have said throughout: know what YOU want, negotiate for THAT. Again and again and again. – jcmeloni Jun 16 '16 at 15:37
• "There aren't two market rates, one for men and one for women." should probably be changed to "There shouldn't be two market rates..." This may depend on which part of the world the person asking the question is working in. Unfortunately, not everyone lives in enlightened societies. – David Jun 18 '16 at 5:16
• @David: Even in that case, if you are negotiating your salary, there are probably not two market rates. There are more! There would be two ranges of market rates, and you want to get as high a number in your range as possible. – sumelic Jun 19 '16 at 15:07
• Learning some basic negotiation skills is a relatively small investment with large returns. It's unfortunate, but much of your career-long income is determined by a few short interactions usually separated by a multiple years. It's stupid and it's unfair, but that's reality. You don't have to be a top negotiator, you just have to have basic negotiating competence. – Martin Carney Jun 20 '16 at 16:50

This is likely to cause offense. Such a statement would imply (without evidence) that the people you are negotiating with are likely to discriminate against you because you are a woman. Suggesting that the people who are about to employ you are probably sexist is not a good way to start off in a new position.

The idea that a significant part of the gender pay gap is caused by direct discrimination is controversial. According to the most thorough studies of the issue, most of the pay gap is explained by factors like different career choices, education, and experience. The remaining portion of the gap may be due to discrimination, or other factors such as women being less likely to negotiate for higher salaries. Wikipedia summarizes the evidence.

Most studies do conclude that there is some discrimination involved, but find that the largest part of the gap is due to other, measurable factors. Typically, there aren't good ways to measure discrimination directly, so studies tend to infer that the portion of the salary gap not explained by any measurable factors is caused by discrimination. While this may be reasonable, it is a judgement call, as there may be other unmeasurable factors that explain the gap. Here is more good information from Skeptics Stack Exchange.

It is not clear, based on the evidence, that individual employers discriminating based on gender for salaries is actually a meaningful contributor to the gender gap. Even those who highlight the pay gap as a big problem often focus on arguments like "society values jobs women do less" or "women are socialized to go into lower paying fields" more than direct discrimination.

Even if you disagree and believe direct discrimination is widespread, there is still no evidence that your particular employer discriminates.

Ultimately, the best option (whether discrimination exists or not) is to negotiate for pay that is in line with your qualifications, skills, and experience.

There are lots of other questions on this site about how to negotiate salaries, so I'm not going to repeat advice about that here.

Update: thanks, commenters, for the feedback. I remain convinced about the main points I have made, but I realize that not everyone agrees. I have added more discussion and the other reference suggested, and I hope it is a fair treatment of the evidence (whatever your conclusions may be).

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 16 '16 at 22:08
• This answer contains a lot of discussion on the existence of the 'gender gap', none of which is relevant to the question. (That's a comment on the answer, by the way, not a discussion of the subject). – DJClayworth Jun 16 '16 at 22:14
• @DJClayworth I disagree regarding it being irrelevant. Addressing flawed assumptions in a question is not irrelevant. – reirab Jun 17 '16 at 5:21

No, don't point out that you are a woman.

You don't want to be paid in line with your male colleagues. You want to be paid in line with your qualifications. (And your skill at negotiating.)

If your male colleagues are less qualified than you are, and/or less adept at negotiating, you want to be paid more. If your male colleagues are more qualified, yes, in principle you want to have a matching salary, but then you are overpaid, and that could be a problem down the road - better to accept a lower salary and work on your qualification.

As deviantfan notes, asking for special treatment based on your gender can paint you as a high-maintenance employee, and not only salary-wise, but also management-attention-wise. Not good. Plus, you don't want something like this ever to become public knowledge among your peers. With professional HR, it won't ever come out, but if anyone ever mentions "that software engineer who got a higher starting salary because she's a woman", you will not be liked by your colleagues - neither men nor women.

Focus on your skills and qualifications, and negotiate well.

• I'm a great software engineer but a lousy negotiator. I'm looking for an easy way to get fair pay. – cili Jun 16 '16 at 6:11
• @cili you will be paid fair. In SoftEng, gender doesn't matter, the table you did show us is a good example, if you compare with the level of experience, it is really fair for women. When people speak about gender equality, it is about other field of activity, like building, teaching, etc... – Gautier C Jun 16 '16 at 6:19
• If you are a lousy negotiator, I'm afraid there is no easy way. Work on your negotiation skills. Yes, that is possible. Here is a question: do you want to be paid in line with a male colleague who is also a lousy negotiator, or with one who isn't? If the latter, the best way is to focus on your negotiation skills, not on your biology. – Stephan Kolassa Jun 16 '16 at 6:24
• @cili: and do you know what fair pay is? Then just reply that you want to make that, and say no if they go lower. – RemcoGerlich Jun 16 '16 at 11:30

You want to be paid like your male colleagues. That's good! Now, you need to negotiate like them too. Set your expectations higher (men tend to ask for higher raises) than you would.

You don't need to point out you are a woman, you need to point out how much they should value you (by first pointing to what you have achieved/accomplished during your time with them). Then you need to set forward what you think is a fair compensation for all the presumably good work you do for them.

I also urge you to read over Jane S' answer. This part especially is super important: "Negotiate for the salary that fits your expectations, qualifications and experience.". You are not negotiating for womankind, you are negotiating for yourself.

• Could the downvoter please explain the downvote so I can improve my answer? – kolsyra Jun 20 '16 at 10:21

There's absolutely no point in raising the issue. Unless you have a very unusual name, they already know you're female. So any offer they make will already be constrained by their attitudes.

Also whether or not the general job market is negative is also irrelevant. At the time you'll be just one candidate of several.

So caution would be my watchword.

Short version: Study salaries in your area, your employer (glassdoor.com) and evaluate your skillset as objectively as possible. Then negotiate as though your employer does not discriminate and try to get a fair salary. If they attempt to offer you too little, negotiate for more. If they refuse to pay you a competitive wage, regardless of their motivations, then find another employer who will. Software Engineering is a field in which there is a labor shortage, you have the power to shop for an employer who will treat you fairly.

Long version: You seem worried about the wage gap, but don't worry, it almost certainly won't affect you. To explain why, let me give you some background.

In the United States, the statistic commonly known as the "Wage Gap" comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Highlights of Women's Earnings report which they publish annually (I have linked the 2013 report.)

First, a quote from the first page:

It is important to note that the comparisons of earnings in this report are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences.

The report looks at a sample of all earnings in the nation and does not attempt to compare men and women in similar fields with similar experience.

Due to the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics report was being used in a misleading way to warn of a "Wage Gap", the Bureau of Labor Statistics contracted with the CONSAD Research Corporation in 2009 to do a more thorough study that would control for factors like experience, career interruptions, and industry. It can be found here.

A few quotes from the foreword:

During the past three decades, women have made notable gains in the workplace and in pay equity [...] However, despite these gains the raw wage gap continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap. The purpose of this report is to identify the reasons that explain the wage gap in order to more fully inform policymakers and the public.

And:

Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.

As some commenters have mentioned above, recent studies have shown that for unmarried men and women early in their careers (before things like career interruptions due to pregnancy generally come into play) and in the same field, the earnings gap between men and women is very narrow, with some reports even indicating that women earn more.

Pew Data for 2012, showing women under 35 making 93% as much as men.

Guardian article from 2015 reporting women in their 20s earning more than men.

Anecdotally, I also currently work as a Senior Software Engineer myself, and have not observed gender to be a factor in salaries among my coworkers, and have never heard a manager bring it up in salary discussions.

The only real danger is not negotiating effectively (this cost me a lot of money early in my career, even as a man.) I recommend the book Getting to Yes as a good starting place if you have never taken the time to hone your negotiating skillset.

So in summary, don't let the Earnings Gap discourage you. Learn what people earn in your market, know your skillset, and negotiate confidently and assertively for what you know you're worth. The data shows that employer discrimination is not a significant cause of the Earnings Gap, and as I mentioned earlier, if they do try to discriminate against you, the best choice is to walk away from the table and find another employer.

Best of luck!

What you are in effect asking is if there is a reasonable, low-risk way to deal with systemic gender discrimination risk.

Sorry, probably not.

There are no easy ways around systemic discrimination.

Stating you are aware of the problem doesn't help. Asking them to be aware of the problem doesn't help.

You can look to find organizations which publically state they are aware of the issue and work to combat it. Asking about this during an interview is high risk, as the reaction of people in power to being asked about "do you oppress?" is usually very negative. You can see lots of evidence about this in this very Q&A, where people talk about being offended by the question, or treat someone who believes this is the case as someone not to hire.

The upside of asking is that you will pre-filter out the workplaces where the attitude is "there is no problem". The downside is you pre-filter. As a prospective employee, there is a large power imbalance, and often you need the job more than they need to employ you specifically. Sometimes this isn't the case, and they need you more than the opposite: but modern business practices basically revolves around eliminating that possibility as much as possible.

If there was an easy way around systemic discrimination, the problem would already be solved.

So, rather than talk about it in the interview (or before!), examine the public statements of the company around the gender pay gap. There are employers explicitly working to eliminate it, that study their own pay gap problems and publish their successes and failures pubically. Seek out such employers. Find employers that use objective, transparent criteria (almost anything will do!) to determine salaries to avoid the negotiation trap.

There are companies who will probably respond enthusiastically to being asked about their gender pay gap policies, such as McMaster University. There are many, many others which will respond with deciding not to hire you, or flagging you as a troublemaker.

So, only ask a question like "what policies do you have to address gender pay gaps" or the like if you are planning to walk away if they don't give the answer you want.

This can be a valid option, and it does send a message (that their lack of gender pay gap policies can cost them hires). But it sends a message at a cost, and with the power imbalance involved in interview and employment, odds are they aren't listening too hard to you.

• I wanted to upvote but the last paragraph is pretty much the same mistake OP tried to make in the first place - that is asking "do you oppress?". Rewording the question changes nothing. – Agent_L Jun 16 '16 at 15:06
• I don't think asking in general about policies to support the equality of women in the workplace would likely be offensive. The problem with bringing up the pay gap during salary negotiations is that you appear to be implying something about the specific people you are negotiating with. Asking about a general company policy to address a systemic problem does not have the same implications. – user45590 Jun 16 '16 at 15:15
• I am sure the company where I work has no policy whatsoever to address "gender pay gaps", but pays people according to what they are worth, as they should do. A good company wouldn't need a policy. On the other hand, asking the question alone is an indication of trouble. – gnasher729 Jun 16 '16 at 15:24
• @dan1111 This very Q&A implies you are wrong. There are large number of people who respond very negatively to even being asked about this. Look at gnasher right under you, where merely asking about such a policy is "an indication of trouble". – Yakk Jun 16 '16 at 15:36
• @Agent_L The last paragraph simply states "if you ask this question, and they aren't on-board, you should be committed to walking away". People who think there is no need to address gender pay gaps will be offended and/or oppress harder (you are a "troublemaker") if you bring it up. Thus only bring it up if you are willing to walk away if they don't respond enthusiastically. There are companies that will respond enthusiastically: See McMaster University. – Yakk Jun 16 '16 at 15:39

I'm not able to comment. I would not suggest bringing up "The pay gap between men and women" as this is a myth at best. There are no reputable economists or statisticians that acknowledge a gender wage gape exists in North America (assuming this is where you are as it is not specified, and please research this before commenting).

Discussing known myths as reality may cause some worry with potential employers. I would not discuss this with them, nor would I make your gender a major point of discussion, as your gender encompasses approximately 50% of the population, it is generally irrelevant.

Do I finish this sentence by subtly implying that they shouldn't pay me less than men in the same position?

This is a very bad idea. Displaying clear passive-aggressive tendencies in the interview is not likely to help you in any way.

Although some of what I have said is in previous answers, no one has addressed the pay gap as a myth, which I feel is important for future negations and consideration.

Best of luck.

• To the contrary, the pay gap is in fact real, and it is due in part to discrimination. This has been settled: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5159/… The question is to what degree does discrimination play a part. – ognockocaten Jun 17 '16 at 14:32
• @charginghawk In the tech field the gender pay gap is against men, not women. money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/pf/gender-pay-gap among many explains. – Lan Jun 17 '16 at 19:12
• @Lan Did you read the article? "Overall, women hired for jobs in technology, sales and marking were offered salaries that were 3% less than what men were offered, but at some companies the gender pay gap was as high as 30%", "Men received higher salary offers for the same job title at the same company 69% of the time", "Take the job of software engineer. Women were offered 7% less on average at major corporations versus being paid 4% less at small start-ups". – ognockocaten Jun 17 '16 at 19:27
• @charginghawk, even according to the link you provided: The pay gap is real, is largely due to other factors than discrimination, and may be due in part to discrimination, and a thorough look at the evidence indicates that it is a reasonable assumption—but still an assumption, not proven—to attribute the remainder of the gap to gender discrimination. This is a more precise summary of the link you cite than to call it "settled" that the pay gap is due in part to discrimination. – Wildcard Jun 17 '16 at 22:29
• Remembering that the HR department is not only looking for the best people, but also trying to save money, so they will offer as little as they think they can get away with. They will also offer less money to foreigners, or any other non-majority group, it's not a judgement of worth, they are doing their job. – RedSonja Jun 20 '16 at 13:47

This was going to be a comment but takes too much space.

I don't know that the pay gap is actually real. I believe that it's either:

• A remnant. Women moving up the org chart and getting a standard % raise based on older substandard pay.

• Totally made by the women going into the negotiation and expecting to get less and there for accepting less.

For all the companies that I have had a hand in the hiring process (which usually would be for IT/Dev positions) There is a chart, a table, or a budget that is the constraint. Usually presented as $x -$y against experience and skills. Something like

1 Years - 100 - 200
2 Years - 120 - 220
3 Years - 130 - 220
4 Years - 140 - 220
5 Years - 150 - 230


Never have I seen a chart, table or budget that split out women and men. However I have seen the following.

The expected negotiation is:

What do you want?

I want something in the range of 150.

-- Then I look at the chart and see of there in range. If there near the bottom I accept. If there near the top we continue.

I would like to offer you 100. Consider that and the other benefits.

I can't do 100, how about 125.

Ok, I can offer 125.

I have seen woman who seem to expect to get less, and thus take the 100 offer with no counter offer (I have guys do it too, but it seems women do it more, though I don't really know why).

If there is a pay gap, I feel (can't prove) that it exists in that fact, and not in any way (for most companies) a deliberate effort to pay women less.

Because of that I would suggest that the downsides outweigh the single potential benefit (scaring them into doing the right thing.)

You could be passed up because you're making gender a thing. To be honest, when hiring any women or anyone really, I keep an eye out for people who think they are going to be in the default position of being screwed over. These people tend to think that they're being picked on when asked to work late, or that extra weekend. The new guy (or gal in this case) always gets the crap work. It's not picking on, it's seniority. So I try to weed out applicants that feel like they're going to turn every "Can you work late?" into "Are you picking on me because I'm a woman?"

• A friend of mine is a manager in a tech company. His experience is that in his department, if a woman says "I want $X," she is offered$X. If a man says "I want $X," the next higher manager above him and the HR person (both female) negotiate back and forth between them and ultimately wind up offering him$X + 25% (sometimes more). I'm sure they don't believe they are discriminating. – Amy Blankenship Jun 20 '16 at 15:32
• So, as a man If I say I want $400 then I would be offered$500? – coteyr Jun 20 '16 at 16:04
• Your math skills are pretty good :) – Amy Blankenship Jun 20 '16 at 16:17
• I can honestly say, i have never heard or seen that. I have always been instructed to, and seen "go for the lowest offer they accept in range" If someone asked for way lower then they were worth, we would re-evaluate them. For example 3 years experience and asks for \$50. They would be looked at again. If they asked for 120 we would just bump them up to 130 regardless of gender. But every company is different. – coteyr Jun 20 '16 at 16:23
• It's probably not a usual way to do things. I don't think the women involved are aware they only do it when the hiree is male. – Amy Blankenship Jun 20 '16 at 16:42

I'm pretty sure this is not the best answer but let me bring this idea forward.

Depending on location (this is relevant). Female Software employees are scarce, most people will find that having a mixed set of persona's in a team will be more productive and different solutions will be proposed and implemented.

That being said, they might even consider adding a female dev to their team more valueable instead of thinking you should get paid less. Especially in the IT field I don't believe people will handle this way towards you.

What I do see here is that you're basically giving them the choice on rewarding you for your expertise, if you don't come forward with a target wage they will aim below this. This is a thing I've seen in other answers (Like the top voted) that women tend to not ask for a raise or a better starting salary. If you do you will easily get better options.

I'm just a Medior in my country after half a year of being a Junior at my first job here, when I would not have asked for a certain amount I would have earned about 10% less than when I did (their offer was way lower).

That said, instead of bringing up I'm a woman which to me would be an insult as recruiter since it would imply I am indeed discriminating. That being said, if I as recruiter would think you're not worth as much as any other I would simply not offer you more or hire you. If you'd bring up the I am a woman factor I would reject you fully, to most people it's irrelevant it's about your expertise.

I would bring forward an idea of what I'd think be fair (and top it off a little so they can also lower it slightly and still make me happy).

I hope this gives some insights in your issue, as for female developers our company's lead dev is one and I'm totally happy with this.

Idealistically, you should approach such negotiations without any regard to gender, for which the plethora of other advice holds true. However, there is an observed historical issue within the tech industry with regards to women and I can understand wanting to do something to address that.

During an interview during salary discussion is not the time to address it. Depending on where you're interviewing, many western countries have a bunch of anti-discrimination laws that prohibit factors like gender, age, marital status, etc. being of consequence in the hiring process. While some of these are harder to hide than others, it does put limits on the appropriateness of discussing them or calling them to attention during the interview. Attempting to use it as a negotiation tactic amplifies the inappropriateness of this and would not be considered professional.

However, earlier in the interview you can approach this subject indirectly by discussing gender equality in the workplace and what measures they have in place to ensure this. A number of companies are quite proactive in their diversity efforts and a good interviewer would welcome the opportunity to sell the position on these features, whereas others should at least confirm that they adhere to minimum standards mandated by local law. Depending on how they answer this, this may give you more confidence that when you do engage in salary negotiation, it will be on a level playing field.

Well, no... First obviously, if you had a face to face interview, they should ideally have figured this one out. Second, if you feel the need to point out that you are a woman and "need equitable pay" kinda implies you are a jerk, or don't trust them to make a decision based on your qualifications/

• I did not see any answers addressing a "face to face" interview. Pointing this out in a setting like that is very unprofessional and would clearly put them on the "do not hire" list. – Jon Milliken Jun 21 '16 at 13:46

Ok, I'll play woman's advocate here. Many of the other answers are based on the assumption that you've got the weaker hand in negotiations, and you shouldn't risk the hiring company's ire by asking a potentially offensive question. However, you are a software engineer and this is an industry with negative employment. So, I think it's altogether feasible that you have the stronger hand in the negotiations.

In that situation, it might not necessarily be a mistake to pre-filter workplaces that don't take gender issues in the workplace seriously. If a company's answer to a question about the wage gap is anything less than "the wage gap is a serious issue and we're committed to closing it," than that could reasonably indicate other problems with the company.

Maybe they're outright a bunch of sexist jerks, maybe they're merely indifferent on issues that are important to you, maybe they're just naive. I don't have much confidence in any of the above having your back should gender-discriminatory workplace happenstance (of which there are many varieties) befall you.

So, if you have the time and resources to find a company that fits your values (and there are companies that are proudly committed to closing the wage gap), aren't you just taking reasonable steps to protect your self-interest? There's nothing wrong with prioritizing a supportive culture over any other measure of a company.

• you shouldn't risk [...] potentially offensive question It's not offensive, potentially or otherwise. It's threatening. It's telling the recruiters I'm likely to sue for discrimination on the assumption that you're discriminating. – rath Jun 16 '16 at 18:22
• @rath That's a subjective interpretation. I'm not sure I'd like to be a female employee under your management if you hear "I'm going to get sued" whenever someone says "gender pay gap". – ognockocaten Jun 16 '16 at 18:51
• Good software engineers are indeed in high demand, but not high enough that they can get away with making not-so-veiled threats (or otherwise being a jerk) in an interview. A large part of what any company - yes, even software companies - are looking for in an interview is how well you work with others. Insinuating that the prospective employer is likely to discriminate against you and making threats to them literally the first time you meet them is not going to speak positively to your people skills. – reirab Jun 17 '16 at 5:08
• A good female software engineer isn't in demand because she is female. It's because she is good at what she does. We aren't in the trophy collecting business here. Software engineering is about building real stuff. – kolsyra Jun 17 '16 at 12:38
• @charginghawk Culture and ethics are indeed very important. And people who see themselves as perpetual victims and insinuate that people they've never even met before are likely to practice illegal discrimination against them aren't the kind of people who make a positive company culture. As far as it being a threat, I suggest you read the question again. There is no way to interpret "that would not come under scrutiny if a gender gap analysis was done on your payroll" as anything other than a threat against the company. It's clearly intended to be a threat. – reirab Jun 17 '16 at 15:42

## protected by Monica CellioJun 20 '16 at 18:05

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