Personal Finance

How to ask for a pay rise – and get one

The new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, sparked a media storm last week by telling a conference for women in computing that they shouldn’t ask for pay rises.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” he told the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Unfortunately on this point Nadella is wrong. Statistics show that the system does not give out the right raises. If it did, women wouldn’t be paid up to 25 per cent less then their male equivalents in the US and 20 per cent less in the UK.

There are a whole host of reasons why women are paid less than men including job choice, career breaks, union membership, hours worked, and discrimination. But asking for a raise is a big factor too. Research has shown time and again that men are more likely to speak up and ask for more cash than women.

A recent survey in the US by Glamour magazine found that only 39 per cent of women negotiated for a higher salary when they started a new job, compared to 54 per cent of men. The magazine also found that just 43 per cent of women have ever asked for a raise in an existing job, whereas 54 per cent of men had.

 Discussing pay may seem awkward but it is vital. Whether you are a man or a woman being able to speak up and discuss what you are worth to your employer is vital. Imagine you start at job at the same time as someone else in the same role. You are both offered a starting salary of £25,000. You accept that but the other person negotiates it up to £28,000. From then on you both get a 5 per cent pay increase over the next 30 years. Over that time the person who negotiated a higher starting salary will earn an extra £285,000.

So here is how to ask for a pay rise:

Do your research

Find out what people doing your job typically get paid. The internet is a huge help here. Websites such as or have sections covering the average salary for a whole host of jobs. If you have a friend in the industry see if you can talk money with them too.

Assess your contribution

Take some time, sit down and make a list of all the things you have achieved in your job recently and what you do well. These are the things you need to mention when you meet to discuss your pay rise.

Determine what you are worth

Now you need to be objective. Look at the data you have on the average salary for your line of work. Then look at your list of what you have achieved and decide what you think you should be being paid. Asking for more money isn’t rude if you have an objective argument to back it up.

Have a back-up plan

Before you discuss your pay rise be clear with yourself about what is achievable. If your company is struggling a pay rise might not be possible even if your boss does agree that you are doing a really good job. So could you ask for more holiday or flexible working hours instead if they say no to a pay rise?

Set out your argument

Time to bite the bullet and meet with your boss. Start by saying how much you like your job and enjoy working for the company . Then go through what you have achieved and what you are good at. Then calmly ask for the pay increase you have already worked out.

Listen to the response

No matter how your boss responds, listen to him or her. You may get some invaluable advice. If the answer is no, ask for reasons and what you can do to improve.

However the meeting goes it is never to early to start preparing for your next pay review. When you made that list of your achievements was your boss aware of them all? If not, you need to make sure they are not overlooked in the future. This doesn’t mean constantly blowing your own trumpet, simply keeping your boss up to date on what you are doing – perhaps with a weekly email or regular catch-up. That way next time you want to discuss your pay he or she will be more aware of your value to the company.

Good luck.


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