I. Brill CassIsraela Adah Brill-Cass is an attorney and mediator with over twenty years of experience helping individuals engage in challenging conversations and asking for more. She was the Executive Director and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Program Manager at Boston Law Collaborative, LLC from 2003 to 2015. She currently teaches salary negotiation courses at Boston’s Society of Grownups, as well as the ‘Mediation, Facilitation and Dialogue’ and ‘Conflict and Negotiation’ courses at Emerson College. She is currently CFO of fixerrr, llc., a member of the Administrative Office of the Trial Court’s Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution and has multiple times been named as a New England Super Lawyer and Top Woman Attorney in Alternative Dispute Resolution by Thompson-Reuters and Boston Magazine.


  • Women and men are socialized differently from birth. This can effect the likelihood of women ‘asking for more’ or advocating for their own professional growth.
  • Use positive language when asking for a raise.
  • Ask what’s possible if a salary increase is not available.

What’s the best way to prepare for a salary negotiation?

Get as much information as you possibly can about the company, the responsibilities that come with the position and what others in the market doing similar work are paid. The best way to get this is from someone inside the company if you have a connection, the second best way is a website like glassdoor.com.

Then think about what matters to you – what is your walk away point for salary? Are there other things you would trade for – flextime, working from home, mentoring etc… – if you can’t get the dollars you’re hoping to get?

Then practice, practice, practice!

When do you know it’s time to ask for a raise?

Timing to ask for a raise is sometimes an art and sometimes a science. Annual or bi-annual reviews are traditionally times to ask for increases. On the art end, if you’ve been with a company for over 6 months and have been reviewed well, completed a high profile project or saved the company a significant amount of money and you know the company has the resources, you could also tactfully bring up the subject of a raise. Also, if you find out that others in the company who are doing work similar to yours and they have similar or fewer skills and/or responsibilities than you do, it’s time to talk about salary.

Why do you think more women don’t negotiate?

Traditionally women are socialized differently than men; girls take turns and boys run to the front of the line. This translates to women that are not only natural sharers and peacemakers but also naturally inclined to be grateful for what they have and less likely to push for more. There are competing statistics on percentages of men negotiating salary vs. women – men are anywhere from 2.5 to 8 times more likely than women to negotiate but one thing is clear: those that don’t negotiate don’t make as much as those that do negotiate.

What should someone NOT do at a salary negotiation?

Go in unprepared. Not knowing what you’re looking for, what’s possible or what you would accept as a compromise leaves you susceptible not only to not getting the most out of the negotiation but also leaving the person you’re negotiating with wondering about whether you take the process seriously or not.

What happens if the negotiation conversation doesn’t go well?

Negotiations should always be cordial even if you don’t get what you hope to get from them. If at all possible, find out what the deciding factors are and if you can change them in a future negotiation – e.g. is there a budget limitation you’re not aware of for this calendar year or does a particular productivity threshold need to be met before you are eligible for a merit increase? This way you can focus your energies on what needs to be done to increase your chances next time. Also, unless things go truly badly and you’re concerned about maintaining your job altogether, it’s always acceptable to ask if you can revisit the negotiation in 3, 6 or 12 months.

How much should women be making in the solar industry?

This depends on a number of factors including but not limited to: 1) their level of experience 2) the level of responsibility of the position they’re in 3) the number of possible competitors with similar experience that could do that same job and 4) the location of the job (generally housing/cost of living is a factor so solar jobs in or near cities would have a higher base than a similar position in, for example, Iowa).

What language is appropriate when asking for a significant raise? Are there specific terms a woman should use to communicate her value?

Positive language is always best – be positive about and don’t minimize or downplay your accomplishments. Wherever possible highlight how your skills set you apart from others and most importantly how they benefit the company. When you can, replace “but” with “and” and remember to highlight your successes because no one else will do it for you.

Should negotiation conversations involve emotion? Why or why not?

All interactions involve some level of emotion and negotiations are no different. Remember to not translate a number into an indication of your worth as a human being – salaries for new employees reflect risk of the unknown performer as well as other factors like parity among staff, level of responsibility, budget etc…Don’t be offended if you don’t get what you want the first time around. Be prepared to make tradeoffs and know your walk away point. Remember most of all that salary negotiations involve personalities but they aren’t personal.

Should negotiation conversations involve more than one employee? When does it make sense to pull in a 2nd person?

Generally, if you have the decision maker in the room, there’s no need for extra people to be part of a negotiation. That having been said, if it would advance your attempt to get a raise to have your supervisor or someone familiar with your work in the room to highlight the quality of your work and your value to the company, there’s no harm in bringing them in for that purpose. Also, if you find that your relationship with the person with whom you’re negotiating isn’t a good one and you don’t feel you’ll get a fair conversation, it might be beneficial to bring in someone who is neutral or another authority within the company to help those conversations go more smoothly.

What’s the best way to begin a negotiation conversation?

With a bit of small talk. Anything that isn’t a dollar figure that connects you to the other person makes it more likely they’ll be on your side in the conversation. Look at them as your negotiation partner and not your adversary and start with friendly chit-chat for a few minutes then get down to business so they don’t think you’re wasting time.

If an employer isn’t able to give a financial raise, are there other negotiation points?

Yes – a common mistake is not asking what else is possible if dollars aren’t available. Some employers can offer to pay for addition licensing or education which has a tremendous value especially when you’re looking for your next job. Mentoring and accessibility to higher level folks are also of immediate and future value.

3 big takeaways about negotiation that everyone should know?

1) The best prepared negotiators always do best in negotiations so prepare prepare prepare! 2) You never know what’s possible unless you ask so don’t be afraid to ask and 3) Negotiation is like a foreign language – you can’t expect to be fluent unless you practice.