25 famous women on asking for a raise

Setting up a meeting with your boss to negotiate a salary bump is stressful. Here are some useful negotiating tips from famous women.

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Setting up a meeting with the boss to ask for a salary bump can be a loaded, anxiety-inducing experience for anyone—even when you clearly deserve a raise. Women in the workforce already have to deal with the ugly realities of the gender pay gap, and failing to negotiate a higher salary at the onset can become a barrier years down the line. According to research from Glassdoor, 68% of women accepted the salary they were initially offered and did not negotiate.*

Below, we culled real, honest wisdom on how to negotiate from women like Meryl Streep, CEO Indra Nooyi, and Lilly Ledbetter, the equal-pay activist whose lawsuit against Goodyear ultimately led to the Fair Pay Act that bears her name. Read on for their best advice.

1. Bozoma John, Chief Brand Officer, Uber

"Give the number first. Make it high as hell because then you can't be low-balled … Do the work. Don't just call a number out of the sky. Know the range and then exceed the range because then you can negotiate down just a little bit." —CBS News, February 2018

2. Mary H. K. Choi, Author

"If you do plan on asking for a raise, be prepared to prove your value. Charts and lists and figures help. Know what your job is and how it fits into the institution … Just like talking about numbers and acknowledging each other's value at the end of a tough year feels good. It feels therapeutic and hug-like without contact, which may be my favorite feeling." —Twitter, December 2017

3. Lilly Ledbetter, Activist

"I went over and interviewed with Goodyear in 1978, and I worked for Goodyear Tire Company for 19 years before I found out that the males were making 40% more than I was making for working the same job. Someone left me a little torn sheet of paper and tipped me off anonymously, listing my base pay and their base pay. The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw it was how much I had lost on overtime. I thought about my retirement and my 401(k) and my Social Security, because what you earn is what determines your retirement. I was just humiliated and embarrassed, to say the least, that a major corporation could do me that way. The company I worked for told me when I [was] hired there: 'If you discuss your pay, you will not have a job here.' So no one ever discussed their pay. I never knew. I had no idea how much someone else was making … After I got that tip, I filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the wheels went into motion with the company." —Self, January 2016

4. Meryl Streep, Actress

On her offer for The Devil Wears Prada: "The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project. There was my 'goodbye moment,' and then they doubled the offer. I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf." —Variety, June 2016

5. Priyanka Chopra, Actress

"I was told that female actors are replaceable in films because they just stand behind a guy anyway. I'm still used to being paid—like most actresses around the world—a lot less than the boys. We're told we're too provocative or that being sexy is our strength, which it can be, and it is, but that's not the only thing we have." —Glamour, May 2017

6. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsciCo

"Women have fought long and hard for a seat at the table. My role at PepsiCo is a testament to the strides we've made. Yet as women enter the workforce in larger numbers than ever before, new challenges emerge. We need to eliminate a wage gap that has women around the world earning the same amount men did roughly a decade ago. We need to empower women by providing them with the support they need to do their jobs and care for their families—because no one should have to choose between their career aspirations and those they love. I'm fighting for gender parity because businesses thrive when we open the doors of opportunity to extraordinary women, and societies thrive whenever and wherever we can unlock the potential of all our people, women and men alike." —Facebook, August 2017

7. Michelle Obama, Former First Lady

"I took my last job [before my husband entered the White House] because of my boss's reaction to my family situation. I didn't have a babysitter, so I took Sasha right in there with me in her crib and her rocker. I was still nursing, so I was wearing my nursing shirt. I told my boss, 'This is what I have: 2 small kids. My husband is running for the US Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. And if you can do all that, and you're willing to be flexible with me because I will get the job done, I can work hard on a flexible schedule.' I was very clear. And he said yes to everything." —Parade, June 2014

8. Pramila Jayapal, US Representative

"Women earn between 54 and 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap is widest for black and brown women. I am co-sponsoring a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act—which Republicans have shamefully rejected 9 times—that creates stronger prohibitions against gender-based pay discrimination. It's simply outrageous that gender and racial bias are taking precedent over skill, experience, and knowledge." —Quartz, February 2018

9. Octavia Spencer, Actress

On working with Jessica Chastain to get equal pay for an upcoming movie: "I told [Jessica] my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that's what it was like for women of color. I love that woman because she's walking the walk and she's actually talking the talk. She said, 'Octavia, we're gonna get you paid on this film. You and I are gonna be tied together. We're gonna be favored nations, and we're gonna make the same thing.' Fast forward to last week, we're making 5 times what we asked for. Now, I wanna go to what the men are making!" —Women Breaking Barriers Panel, Sundance Film Festival, January 2018

10. Jessica Chastain, Actress

On her negotiations with Octavia Spencer: "She had been underpaid for so long. When I discovered that, I realized that I could tie her deal to mine to bring up her quote. Men should start doing this with their female co-stars." —Twitter, January 2018

11. Robin Wright, Actress

"I was like, 'I want to be paid the same as Kevin [Spacey].' It was a perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in House of Cards. I was looking at statistics and Claire Underwood's character was more popular than [Frank's] for a period of time. So I capitalized on that moment. I was like, 'You better pay me or I'm going to go public.' And they did." —HuffPost, May 2016

12. Tina Fey, Comedian

"Every single interviewer asked, 'Isn't this an amazing time for women in comedy?' People really wanted us to be openly grateful—'Thank you so much!'—and we were like, 'No, it's a terrible time. If you were to really look at it, the boys are still getting more money for a lot of garbage, while the ladies are hustling and doing amazing work for less.'" —Town & Country, March 2016

13. Lena Dunham, Actress

"The way that Jenni [Konner] and I work, and I don't mean to sound Pollyannaish, is we tend to think if we're working with someone that we're close to, if we're collaborating with another woman, and we decide to be a little bit generous in a negotiation, it's not because we're weak or afraid. It's because we know that that comes back to you in another way … we never said, 'Oh, I wish I wasn't generous.' Money is one of the ways that you let people know that you appreciate them. When we're getting into collaborative relationships with other artists, we want them to feel appreciated. Also it's important to note that, just because you know what you're worth, doesn't mean it's always easy to ask for it. And I've learned a lot from Jenni in this department. I think that especially toward the beginning of my career, my people-pleasing instincts really got in the way." —LinkedIn, January 2016

14. Ellen Pao, Attorney

"At Reddit, I was encouraged by CEO Yishan Wong's compensa­tion philosophy. He advocated for fair pay by minimizing the amount of negotiation and setting compensation by role. When he left and I stepped in as interim CEO, I made no-negotiation, scale-based pay standard for all employees. We put the onus on the company to pay fairly instead of on candidates to negotiate fair pay. We decided fair was what a strong negotiator would get—market rates at the high end based on experience and role. We believed that paying high market rates and fair compensation across the whole company was key to hiring and retaining the best talent." —The Hollywood Reporter, December 2015

15. Linda Evangelista, Model

"We have this expression, Christy and I. We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." —Vogue, October 1990

16. Diane von Furstenberg, Designer

"The first questions you have to ask yourself are, 'Do I deserve it?' and, 'Why?' Be hard on yourself while you question yourself. If you think you deserve it, then go for it and explain the reason. Do not whine. No tears in the eyes, no complaints. Go with the positives and the positives only. Explain that you deserve the promotion and that with that, you will build ahead for the company. If you are absolutely sure that you deserve it, you will get it. But do not be a victim, be a leader. Since I have worked for myself since I was 22, I could not go and ask for a promotion, but I often had to make presentations and sell myself. Sometimes I was turned down and I always tried to turn the rejection into something positive. It is not easy, but almost always there is a better opportunity hidden behind the lost one. The lesson I took from those rejections is that I look at the glass half full and not half empty!" —The Cut, February 2013

17. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

"When I was negotiating with Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for my compensation, he made me an offer that I thought was fair. We had been having dinner several nights a week for more than a month and a half, discussing Facebook's mission and his vision for the future. I was ready to accept the job. No, I was dying to accept the job. My husband, Dave, kept telling me to negotiate, but I was afraid of doing anything that might botch the deal. I could play hardball, but then maybe Mark would not want to work with me. Was it worth it when I knew that ultimately I was going to accept the offer? I concluded it was not. But right before I was about to say yes, my exasperated brother-in-law, Marc Bodnick, blurted out, 'Damn it, Sheryl! Why are you going to make less than any man would make to do the same job?'

My brother-in-law didn't know the details of my deal. His point was simply that no man at my level would consider taking the first offer. This was motivating. I went back to Mark and said that I couldn't accept, but I prefaced it by telling him, 'Of course you realize that you're hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.' Then I negotiated hard, followed by a nervous night wondering if I had blown it. But Mark called me the next day. He resolved the gap by improving my offer, extending the terms of my contract from 4 to 5 years and allowing me to buy into the company as well. His creative solution not only closed the deal, but also set us up for a longer-term alignment of interests." —Lean In, March 2013

18. Issa Rae

"In my career, I've tried to use negotiation to ensure I'm being paid fairly. As a freelance videographer and editor, I constantly had to set my price points, which was hard in the beginning because I honestly didn't know my worth. In addition to that, I was so eager to work that I was pretty much willing to work for any price point. As I grew more confident in my work, I began to set my prices higher. Sometimes I'd get resistance and sometimes I wouldn't get the job at all. I'd often have to convince them that I was worth the money. Something needs to change. And smarter negotiating isn't enough, because the pay gap isn't my fault or any woman's fault. And it can't just be on women to fix this problem. There is a role for employers and elected officials here, too … A lot of us were raised with the belief that it's not polite to talk about money. If we want to close the pay gap, it's time to stop being polite and start talking about equal pay." —The Root, October 2015

19. Nicki Minaj, Singer

"One thing I learned along the way in business is the necessity to be unapologetic about asking for how much money you deserve. At a very early stage in my rap career, I was making 6 figures for shows. If I heard there was another rapper making that, I thought, 'You know what? I get out there and demand or command a crowd. I get out there and make my fans happy. I get out there and give a real show. I want that, too.' And I pushed myself to be better with my showmanship, but I also decided, you know what? I want to be compensated well … If you know you're great at what you do, don't ever be ashamed to ask for the top dollar in your field." —Time, April 2016

20. Roxane Gay, Writer

"[My father] also taught me how to negotiate … These sharp negotiating skills also came in handy on the job market. With my summer gig, my father asked, a couple days ago, if I had negotiated and I said, 'Wow that didn't even cross my mind. I was just excited to be paid to be a visiting writer.' He sighed and said, 'We still have work to do.' He never stops parenting or worrying or trying to make sure I get everything I deserve." —"Let Me Say I'm Fine," roxanegay.com, June 2011

21. Gloria Steinem, Activist

"The most ironic [thing] that comes to mind is that Time magazine asked me to write an essay about the early women's movement. It was a long time ago—it was maybe in the '70s. First of all, they asked me to do it because they didn't have a woman on staff. Secondly, I did it under deadline because it never occurred to me that they would pay me less than they did men writing the same essay. Time had a page in each issue in which there was a personal essay. When my agent got the check, he told me that I was getting paid less than men who wrote the same essay. So, I wrote the editor of Time and complained and he sent me a Gucci purse. I took the purse back to Gucci because I needed the money and tried to get cash for it and I couldn't." —Fusion, December 2015

22. Jennifer Lawrence, Actress

"When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky [men], I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early … But if I'm honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' … Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share." —Lenny Letter, October 2015

23. Oprah Winfrey

"When I read Jennifer [Lawrence]'s piece yesterday, I said, 'Wow, this sounds like 1985.' Because when I first started The Oprah Show … we syndicated, and I have all women producers, 5 women … I went in and I said, 'Everybody needs raises.' And the management at the time said, 'Why do they need raises? Why do a bunch of girls need raises? They're not married, they don't have children, they don't their own houses.' This was in 1985 in Chicago … I said if you don't give them money, then I'm going to sit down." —CBS This Morning, October 2015

24. Desirée Rogers, CEO, Johnson Publishing Company

"I was in the Obama White House when the bill was passed and so I was lucky enough to be there the day of the signing of the bill and we still have that disparity. I think that it's going to take a while to make that equal. We have to keep it front of mind. Every position we're in, we have to make certain that's not the case. I think that's the way it's going to change. We have to change it and yes, there are men that will be helpful, but we have to continue to demand." —Politico, July 2014

25. Beyoncé, Singer

"We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the US workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77% of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect." —The Shriver Report, January 2014

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*Glassdoor.com, 3 in 5 Employees Did Not Negotiate Salary, May 2 2016.
Article copyright 2018 by The Cut. Reprinted from the March 15, 2018 issue with permission from The Cut.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
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