Not sure if you're making enough money for your role? Your paycheck doesn’t hold the answer—but a few frank conversations and online tools might.

By Kate Rockwood
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A few years ago, Charreah Jackson was working at a communications company when a colleague she was close with asked for advice negotiating a raise. The colleague shared her current salary—which was $20,000 higher than Jackson’s. “I tried to pretend like that number didn’t completely rock my world,” says Jackson, author of the forthcoming book Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman’s Playbook for Love and Success.

Even if you haven’t had a similar wake-up call, chances are good you could be underpaid and not know it. “We’ve been socialized, as women, not to talk about money,” says Sallie Krawcheck, cofounder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investing platform for women. “But that means we don’t know how much we should be making, and we don’t negotiate pay raises as often as we should.”

Here’s how to sleuth out whether your salary is fair—and what you can do about it.

Be a Digital Detective

Search your title and company name on the job site Glassdoor, which has a salary database. Check both the range and the average of what others have said they’re getting paid. If there’s not much data about your employer or you want to see how your company stacks up against the local market, search only your job title and location. PayScale, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor also offer personalized salary analysis tools, which factor in things like years of experience and level of education, to tell you how your pay compares with that of similarly qualified peers.

Break the Taboo

Speak to six people in your company or field—including three men, says Lauren McGoodwin, CEO at Career Contessa, a career site for women. Say, “I’m doing research about my salary range and think you could help me. Would you be willing to share your ballpark salary?” Jackson found that asking for a range made the question feel less intrusive. Talk to colleagues who have moved on from the role too, she suggests; they’re “much more likely to share exact numbers.”

Speak Up

Does your research show you’re underpaid? Krawcheck recommends setting up a meeting with your boss, reminding her of your recent wins, and then saying, “I’ve done some research, and it appears I’m underpaid by x percent.” Then stop talking. “We always want to fill the awkward moment, but just wait,” she says. This will make it clear that the next step is your boss’s to take. If she says she’ll get back to you, suggest a meeting next week. If she says only a small bump is possible, ask whether the company can cover that coding course you’ve wanted to take or send you to a conference you’ve had your eye on.

Jackson brought up the pay discrepancy with her boss after being praised over lunch for a work collaboration. “Nothing was promised then and there, but within a few months I had a raise, and within a year my salary was on par with my coworker’s,” she says. Now she makes a point of talking salary with newer hires. “This code-of-silence culture is on its way out.”

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