But like... how much SHOULD I be making?

Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, the day into the following year that the average woman would have to work to make the same amount as a male counterpart made in the year prior. This is because most women still make 80 cents to the dollar as compared to men, and for most women of color the wage gap is even wider.

But when it comes to knowing how much you should make, it can seem like a bit of a black box. Especially if you've been suffering through a prolonged job search, sometimes you feel grateful to get an offer at all and don't want to risk questioning it. To mitigate this, it really helps to get out in front of the offer and gather as much data as possible before you go into a conversation - whether with a new employer or when asking for additional compensation in your current role. So, how can you figure out what you should be making?

Look at the Total Picture

Companies review lots of factors when setting compensation levels, so make sure you're looking at the total picture. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Tenure
  • Skill profile
  • Prior performance
  • Level of the role
  • Total compensation package (benefits, equity, perks)
  • What's competitive on the market
  • How critical the role is to the company (which has nothing to do with the individual in the role)
  • Size of the company
  • Stage of the company
  • Whether the company is profitable or still in growth stages

When positioning yourself to make an ask or consider an offer, make sure you're taking as many of those factors into account as possible. They can cause offers to vary widely from company to company and role to role - i.e. you can't just ask your work bestie what they make and assume you should be making the same (maybe you should be making more). It can even help to draft out a profile of yourself and the companies you're applying to and consider how the offer might differ from role to role. If you're making an ask in your current position, map out your company, role, and personal experience against these factors as you look at comparable compensations to shape your ask.

Ask Your Peers

While traditionally a bit taboo, more and more individuals and companies are moving toward wage transparency. Especially as it comes to battling the gender pay gap, having the ability to know what your peers make and where you sit within that is essential. Many people don't know that they can ask discuss compensation levels with their colleagues, as often companies discourage such discussions. However, requiring pay secrecy is, in fact, illegal.

The National Labor Relations Act 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169 prohibits pay secrecy, however, there are some exceptions such as when a “legitimate and substantial business justification outweighs its employees’ interests.” Some states have gone further than this, so check your local laws. In New York, the Achieve Pay Equity Act (APEA) restricts an employer from prohibiting an employee from “inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing” the employee's wages or the wages of another employee. For a more in-depth review of these laws, see Dechert LLP's piece, "Achieve Pay Equity Act and Other Developments Impose Additional Requirements on New York Employers." Your direct peers are going to have the most applicable information on what your company's compensation ranges are, if you're all comfortable discussing it together. But remember, it's not a one-to-one comparison and you have to keep all of the factors mentioned above in mind.

Search the Web

Oh, the internet age. We have access to so much information at our fingertips, it's sometimes overwhelming. When looking for compensation comparisons, here are a few great places to start:

I also recommend finding similar job listings that do list a salary range and sorting them to see if they're comparable to your current role or the roles you're applying for in the aforementioned factors. The salaries you find via these sources will likely vary widely, and that's because of how complex salary decisions are. It takes a little work on the individual's part to narrow put the pieces together and find an ask that makes sense for them.

Finally, do all of this work BEFORE you get an offer or make an ask. You should have a good sense of your contributions and skill levels, what the market will bear, and what the company's situation is before having these conversations. This will prepare you to negotiate effectively since you know what factors go into the decision.

Once you've done all of this, it's time to make the ask. Stay tuned for a companion piece on how to prepare for that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, remember, you're worth every penny.


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