Women Have Lost Negotiating Power at Work During the Pandemic

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 29, 2021

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A middle-age woman sitting in an office looking thoughtful.

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Here's how the past 12 months have impacted women professionally.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the U.S. workforce, with millions of jobs being lost in the course of the past 12 months. But the toll has disproportionately affected women.

Compared to men, women have lost over 700,000 more jobs since the pandemic began. Part of that stems from the fact that they tend to be more heavily represented in industries that have been notably hard hit over the past year, like retail and hospitality. Also, because of the gender pay gap, women have been more likely to exit the workforce and look after their children in the absence of childcare.

But even women who have managed to keep working during the pandemic are feeling its impact. In fact, since the pandemic began, women have become 12.1% less comfortable asking their employers for a raise, according to a study by Indeed Hiring Lab. By contrast, men have only become 8.6% less comfortable.

Other studies have come up with similar findings. Lending platform Laurel Road, for example, found that 54% of college-educated women plan to ask for a raise this year, compared to 75% of college-educated men. And if that trend continues, the gender pay gap could widen even further once the pandemic is well behind us.

Be your own advocate

If you've been hesitant to ask for a raise, it's now more important than ever that you push yourself to speak up for yourself. Of course, having that conversation can be challenging, especially at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate is still so high and jobs are being shed left and right. But with the right approach, you could wind up with a more generous salary -- and one that's worthy of your hard work.

So how do you pull off that conversation? First, do your research. There are numerous sites (like Glassdoor and Salary.com, for example) that allow you to dig up salary data based on factors like job title, industry, and location. If you spend some time researching those figures and see that you're statistically underpaid based on your position, experience level, and work location, you can use that data to make the case for a raise.

Next, gear up to talk about the unique value you bring to the table. Do you possess certain skills that most people at your company don't? Do you have more experience than most of your colleagues? These are factors you can use to your advantage.

Finally, consider some alternatives to a raise that help you achieve a similar goal. For example, if having the flexibility to continue working from home after the pandemic allows you to save thousands of dollars a year on childcare, then you may want to ask for that immediately if you're denied a raise. You may even decide to ask for that instead of a raise if it'll end up working out better for you financially.

Earning more money won't just make your day-to-day finances easier to manage. It will also allow you to meet different goals, whether it's boosting your savings account or buying a home. It's one thing for women to have lost more jobs than men during the pandemic, but to have lost their nerve is another thing. And if the latter applies to you, knowing how to approach that conversation with your employer could be your ticket to boosting your confidence and snagging the raise you deserve.

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