How to ask your boss for a pay raise

Asking for a raise: Women vs. men
Asking for a raise: Women vs. men

In 1973, ten years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, the U.S. Department of Labor produced a public service announcement to raise awareness of the gender pay gap. In it, Batgirl marches up to Batman and demands equal pay.

"I've worked for you a long time and I'm paid less than Robin," Batgirl announces.

Batgirl was the exception to the rule back then, and 46 years later she still is.

A survey by Glamour magazine last year found 57% of women had never asked for a raise. Never. The same was true for 46% of men.

Even when a woman does ask the boss for a raise, experts say there are gender differences that can work against them.

"In my experience, a lot of it is conditioning because you have to remember it's only really 30 or 40 years now that we've seen women rise to positions of authority in the workforce," said Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, a former Wall Street lawyer turned executive coach who's been teaching people how to get more out of their careers for seven years.

CNNMoney decided to try our own experiment. We (one male and one female reporter) put our negotiating skills to the test by asking a mock boss for a raise. The results surprised us both, and taught us a few things about how to negotiate for better pay.

Project confidence

Samuel: I walked into the room with comfort and confidence, maybe even a little bit of excitement. Even though many people dread talking to a boss about money, I just imagined all the times my boss has gone in to ask for a raise -- so no reason for me to be embarrassed.

Clare: I went into this experiment resolved to do my best. But in the room, faced with my "boss," I became very uncomfortable and less assertive than I wanted to be. I consider myself a feminist, but it happened.

Aim high

Samuel: I was taught by two (female) colleagues to always directly link your compensation to the money that you believe you're bringing to the company and start out with a number higher than what you want so there's room for the other side to negotiate.

Clare: I find talking about money incredibly awkward. Plus, I have never really equated my sense of my own value with how much money I earn. My title, perhaps, but not my salary.

In the end, the boss gave Samuel the bigger raise because he asked for more, which left room for negotiating.

Quantify your value

McLaughlin told us we were textbook cases. Men, like Samuel, tend to ask for a higher number and justify it with the tangible financial benefit they bring to the company.

Women, like Clare, often open negotiations at the lowest amount they would be happy with and then justify it with what human resources professionals call "soft skills" like communication, professionalism, or mentoring other colleagues, rather than how much financial value they produce for the company.

Know your audience

McLaughlin's advice to Samuel: When negotiating with a female colleague, maybe go in a little softer.

McLaughlin says that body language is key for women and for men: sit up straight, don't wring your hands and try to maintain as much eye contact as possible.

"Even if we know that we can do the job just as well and that we're just as qualified on a logical level," McLaughlin says about women, "the subtle ways in which the culture can be internalized definitely affect the way that we negotiate."

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