Pay inequity often begins with the first professional job offer. 

Sometimes a salary offer may fail to consider competitive advantages brought into the position like more directly relevant years of experience, more advanced education or superior performance results as compared to other candidates considered. Unfortunately, some salary offers may be lower compared to peers due to bias associated with gender, ethnicity, disability or other protected class groups. 

While one candidate accepts the offer without negotiation, another will negotiate a higher salary. Once a lower salary as compared to its relevant peer group is accepted, the “great divide” begins.

Consider these two offers extended to participate in a company’s management development program: If Michelle accepts a salary offer of $80,000 and Michael counters the $80,000 offer and negotiates and accepts a salary of $85,000, a gap of $5,000 has been created at the onset. Even if both individuals perform well and each receive a 5% raise per year over the next five years, the pay gap between the two will continue to widen. This creates pay inequity issues that are for too prevalent within the workforce.

So as you ponder a job offer or promotion, consider the following tips before accepting the offered salary:

Never accept an offer on the spot. The most generous offers are rarely the offer that is initially extended.

Never ask if the compensation package is negotiable. Most everything is negotiable. Negotiations begin the minute you receive a written offer.

Do your homework. Conduct your own research concerning what is an equitable compensation package for what the position being offered requires. Don't compare an offer to how much you currently earn, but how much the requirements of the job and an individual with your knowledge, skill, experience and education demand in the market.

Know your worth and competitive advantage. Know with certainty what you do better than anyone else; this is your competitive advantage. Be prepared to articulate the "extras" you bring to the table and why these extras should be more richly compensated.

Take the time to understand the total compensation package. Do not become overly focused on base pay. Always ask enough questions before you accept an offer to understand bonus structure, paid leave, group health benefits, retirement benefits, fringe benefits, relocation assistance, educational assistance and merit increase timing and eligibility.

Always ask for more. Extenders of offers typically provide an offer they believe you will accept. Be confident in your request and ask for at least two enhancements of the initial offer, providing the rationale that supports the request. The worst-case scenario is that they will decline your request. The best case is that you will receive what you requested. Remember, if you do not ask, you will not receive.


Maria Smedley is the vice president of human resources and strategy at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.