Boardroom Blues: Why Renegotiating C-Suite Positions Is Essential for Women

karen lynch cvs ceo
December 15, 2021

The US has taken major strides to improve gender equality over the past several decades. Women are claiming their autonomy in every field, from winning the right to open credit cards to breaking glass ceilings. However, the battle isn’t over.

For example, the pay gap is commonly discussed as the next battle for women’s rights. In many industries, women are still paid less than men on average. The gap is found everywhere, from administrative positions to the boardroom.

This pay differential is a sign that women are still undervalued. It’s unfair and unjust. Here’s what you need to know about pay gaps and how you can negotiate to earn what you’re worth as a C-suite leader.

The History of the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap, sometimes called the wage gap, has been around for centuries. Historical misogyny led to women’s labor not being valued equal to men. This was often connected to the belief that “a woman’s place is in the home” and the work they did maintaining the household was not as important as the labor men did to earn money.

When women gained the right to vote in 1920, their political focus shifted to the wage gap. They were still being paid dramatically less than men for the exact same labor. It became even more noticeable during World War II when women entered manufacturing roles formerly held by men and raised lower wages.

In 1963, the passage of the Equal Pay Act made it illegal for a company to pay men and women different amounts for “jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” However, exceptions were made for pay structures that covered seniority, and merit-based pay raises.

Those exceptions continue to cause problems today. While the controlled pay gap is smaller than ever before, it’s still quite broad in many industries. In 2021, women made just 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man on average.

Why C-Suite Positions Aren’t Immune

There is an assumption that women who break glass ceilings and enter C-suite positions are automatically paid what they are due. That’s just not the case. In fact, C-suite roles are often more vulnerable to unfair pay than other positions.

Why? Because in the corporate world, there is rarely a set salary for leadership. A person’s compensation depends on what the board of directors believes their work is worth. It only takes a few people with unconscious biases to result in a leadership team where women consistently earn less than men in similar roles.

Obviously, that’s unjust. However, it is also difficult for the women in question to discover this gender-based discrimination. Few companies advertise the amount they pay their leadership. More importantly, many people consider it impolite to talk about compensation with their colleagues. That leaves female C-suite professionals in the dark regarding how their pay compares to that of male coworkers.

How to Overcome Unfair Compensation

Your salary discrepancy may or may not be because of bias. When an employer does not expressly state that salary is negotiable, women are less likely to push for more compensation than men. This leads to women accepting lower offers on average, even in unbiased workplaces.

Either way, if you suspect that you’re not being paid for your position at the same rate as your male colleagues, you should renegotiate your compensation. Here’s how to discover and overcome your pay gap.

1. Talk to Your Coworkers and Former Executives

While some people are uncomfortable talking about money, not everyone is. If you have a trusted colleague, or preferably several, you should speak to them about compensation.

Try to talk to both men and women and people with more and less seniority than you. You might notice trends like women making consistently less than men with a similar level of experience. The more information you gather, the better prepared you will be when you re-negotiate your salary.

2. Do Your Research

Next, do some digging. Sites like often show compensation for jobs like yours. You may also be able to find financial records for your company, which should include employee compensation. You may be able to get proof that you are under-compensated compared to people who held your job in the past.

Another helpful piece of information to find is your industry’s average for C-suite compensation. Check to see where you are compared to industry standards. If you’re significantly below those numbers, you have leverage for later.

3. Build Your Argument

Now it’s time to put together your argument for better compensation. Document your most remarkable achievements at your current workplace. You want to demonstrate that you are worth more than you are being paid when you  renegotiate your contract and the value you have added to the organization.

You will also need the payment information you have gathered close at hand to show that you’re being underpaid. Finally, you should have two numbers in mind for your new compensation: your “dream” rate (within reason) and the amount you believe is fair for your skills and experience. In combination, these elements put you in a solid position to negotiate for the salary you deserve.

4. Have Backup

With just one C-suite professional in five being a woman, you may not feel secure in your position. That doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate, though. You just need backup.

That backup should come in the form of a lawyer. Working with a compensation attorney can help you build your case more effectively. A lawyer experienced in negotiation and compensation may have additional information about the rates of pay for C-suite employees in your industry. A lawyer can also help you show your employer that you are serious about your claims. Having an attorney on your side improves your chances of getting the pay you are due.

Fight for Your Worth

You do excellent work in your role in the C-suite. You deserve the same compensation as any of your male colleagues. If you don’t believe you are being paid fairly, then it is your right to renegotiate your contract or find a job where you are treated with the respect you deserve.

Get started today by reaching out to an experienced employment law attorney. You can discuss your individual situation and learn about your options. Don’t let unfair biases hold you back: claim the compensation you deserve now.

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