The Expat Woman

Banking on “Karma” vs. Asking for the salary you deserve

Many of us were shocked to learn of Satya Nadella’s perception that women need not ask for salary raises, but to simply “have faith” in the system.  What???!!!

The recent backlash in response to Satya Nadella’s comments (CEO, Microsoft), about women asking for raises, at the Grace Hopper Conference in October, has stirred up strong feelings from many women from all sectors.  For those of you who may not have seen him speak, Nadella shared that he felt that women need not ask for raises, but instead “..have faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along….that it’s “good karma” to not ask and actually a “superpower” that women who don’t’ ask for a raise have.  Wait a minute, Nadella.  This is the 21st century, and yes, my fellow female friends and superstar entrepreneur and hard-working colleagues, we MUST ask for what we want and believe we are deserving of.   Is it karma that has held women at an average of earning 77 cents for every dollar that men earn?  Clearly Nadella just didn’t stop to consider what he was truly saying and whether he believes it or not, doesn’t truly matter.  What does matter is that every woman in the workforce feels that she does have the voice to ask for what she is worthy of.

He has since apologized, which is appreciated, yet his views are not uncommon in our society.  Gender inequity in the workforce does still exist.   All the more important to advocate for yourself when dealing with salary issues – no need to approach the topic with resentment, anger, or even what some consider to be too aggressive.  With a strong sense of self, and knowingness that your skills, education and experience are valued, you can diplomatically assert yourself with this touchy subject.

Here in the U.S., it is expected that we all – women and men – advocate for ourselves to earn what we feel our skills, time and experiences are worth.  Money can be a sensitive topic in the US.  In fact, it is considered to be “taboo” to talk about salary with co-workers and friends.  Our salaries and our finances are very personal topics for most Americans.

Salary negotiation, when accepting a job offer and asking for a salary raise once in a position are often quite scary and sensitive topics to entertain, and especially for many women.  We can be influenced by how we are perceived and what if the answer is “no”!  However, it is so important to advocate for ourselves by standing firm in who we are, and valuing ourselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with women asking for what they want and deserve in the workplace.

Salary negotiation (when receiving a job offer)

You have already been offered the position, which means that they want you!  Take the time to put together your proposal. Ask for the opportunity to meet in person to negotiate your salary. In most cases negotiating via email or phone is less effective and does not benefit you overall. Practice this conversation with a trusted friend.  Build confidence in asking for what you feel you are worth.  Remember that you do not have to arrive at a final decision in that moment.  It is acceptable to think it over for a day and get back to the employer.  Remember that the worst case scenario is that they are not willing to budge, yet you have been offered a job that you may choose to accept….you have a choice.  Employers will not rescind the offer.  Be prepared for a no and know what your bottom line is.

Know the market and what the average range is for the position you are offered

Assess your leverage:  Know how your skills and experience and compare this to the job description.    Do you exceed the job description requirements?)Is the employer getting more than what they asked for?  Are they getting more value with your skills and experience? 

When you negotiate salary, when first taking a job, you are setting the bar for yourself and for future incremental pay raises.  If you settle for less, you may feel that you are taking an opportunity that is not meeting your financial needs which can hang over you and negatively impact your feelings about your job, company and supervisor

It never hurts to ask!  Truly it doesn’t.  You will never know unless you ask.  If an employer is neither willing nor able to adjust salary then it may be possible to negotiate other benefits such as vacation time, flex time, benefits, and hours per week…)

Employers in the US expect you to discuss salary and negotiate salary when accepting a job offer, which means that each employer also may start with a lower salary initially with the assumption that the jobseeker may ask for a bit more.

In an interview (interview process):

Let the employer bring up the question and topic of salary

Do your research and homework on the position, market trends based on that area, your experience and education in relation to the position, and know your financial needs

Be prepared to answer the often dreaded question, what are your salary expectations? —

Asking for a raise in your current job/position:

Each employer is unique in their performance evaluation process.  Yet, this is often the most appropriate time to be prepared to ask for a raise.  Often the employee review process involves a cost of living raise, which can range from 2%-6%.  Yet, if you have evidence that you have been in a position for a length of time and have significant accomplishments, perhaps gaining more responsibility, then perhaps it is also time for a substantial salary raise.  There are so many variables for employers to consider when deciding on salary raises.  Yet, often if we do not ask, we do not get what we want.  So, rather than wait for the opportunity at a review, you may approach your manager only after you have prepared a case to present to her/him (examples of success in your job, examples of when you went above and beyond your position scope)

Develop a positive relationship with your supervisor/manager – the stronger that relationship is, the more that person will “go to bat for you” (advocate for you) when perhaps trying to approve salary raises from higher ups in the organization

Be conscious of timing.  Being sensitive to current financial challenges within the organization allows you to proceed carefully and recognize that this may not be the time to ask and expect a raise, yet expressing your needs and concerns to your manager, is still valid.


We never know unless we ask.  Leave the “karma” to other areas of your life.

Resources worth checking out on women and salary negotiation:

Book:  Women Don’t Ask, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever,

Video: Margaret Neale (Co-Director, Executive Program for Women at Stanford University) speaks on approaches to negotiation


Women Salary Negotiation

Three Negotiating No-Nos for Women

Thank you to our contributing expert: 

Rebekah Kane (, spends her time between Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. She is a coach, educator, and intercultural trainer, with experience training, advising, and coaching professional adults along their career and life changing journeys. She empowers and supports women in career and life transitions, cultural adjustment and in pursuit of their personal and professional development goals and dreams. 



Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

Pin It on Pinterest

Get your Free Ticket

Online from Nov. 7th to Nov.9th