Speak up: aka closing the gender pay gap
As you will know I, and the rest of the UK’s female workforce, have been working for free since the 7th of November. This is because, despite the fact that it’s 2016, women still get paid an average 18% less than men (this rises to 33% post-pregnancy but that’s another issue).
There are a number of economic reasons for this. These include, but are not limited to, the lack of recognition for the economic value of non-formal types of employment and the under-representation of women in fields that typically have higher salaries such as investment banking. However, there are also contributing social factors. Women are painted as more emotional than men in the workplace (read less rational) and characteristics that are heralded as being the cornerstones of success for men are often perceived negatively when displayed by women, for example confidence becomes bossiness, opinionated becomes bitchy.
All of these factors combine to make women feel subordinate in the workplace. This bleeds into other aspects of our lives and manifests in a reduced ability to use our voices. For example, the other day the barista at Costa in Farringdon confused me with someone else and gave me a soya cappuccino instead of just an americano. i don’t like cappuccinos and I don’t drink soy milk, but I felt too awkward to correct his mistake. Instead I paid £2.50 for a drink that I threw into the bin outside and forewent my morning caffeine injection.
This might seem like a meaningless anecdote, but it is symbolic of a wider problem. As Katty Kay and Claire Shipman discuss in “The confidence code” (a great book fyi) whilst men apply for jobs when they feel they meet roughly 60–70% of the criteria asked for in the job description, women wait until they feel 100% qualified. As a result women feel as though the hiring company has done them a favour by hiring them, rather than feeling as though they have helped the company by filling a specific need. Due to this difference in perception, women are significantly less likely to negotiate pay than men, increasing the likelihood of the perennial existence of the pay gap.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be this way. As Elle Woods describes in Legally Blonde 2 after realising that she has lost her voice when she received a bad haircut in a fancy Beverly Hills hair salon, we can speak up. What’s more we SHOULD speak up.
If this idea of standing up for your worth and negotiating a better deal fills you with dread, here are some things you can do to empower yourself:
- Do your research. The internet is a beautiful place. Sites such as glassdoor and LinkedIn will give you an indication of what the average salary for your role is in other companies and Adzuna will even estimate the value of your CV if you upload it. Go into the negotiation armed with an evidence-backed reason for the number you’re asking for and you’re likely to feel more justified in asking for it.
- Lean into your networks. Sheryl Sandberg inspired a whole network of women-only communities designed to empower each other after the publication of her book “Lean In” which raises the important point that traditionally women have been in competition with each other more than men have been because there have been fewer opportunities, however this one for one mentality only hinders everyone. Instead by coming together and supporting each other we can deliver a message that’s hard to ignore. Social media has revolutionised the way we connect and there are more communities designed to support women than ever before. Lean in circles, Lenny Letter, Ada’s List and Mouthy Women are all good examples. Ask these networks for advice and a pre-conversation confidence boost and I promise you they will deliver.
- Make yourself indispensable. Whilst we all wish we lived in a world where women (and other minorities) didn’t have to fight twice as hard to prove their worth as men – the reality is we don’t. If we choose to lament this it will be defeating. However, we can choose to see it as motivating instead. Use the fact that you want your value to be accurately recognised as a motivating factor to make yourself more valuable by going out and learning a new skill. There are a plethora of resources freely available for those wanting to learn something new. Go online, pick up a book, watch a video on YouTube and learn how to become a digital marketer or learn how to code whatever you want. Again this will help give you an evidence-base for your demands.
- Once you’ve got your increased pay, be smart about what you do with it. The reality at the moment is that even when women have the same wage as men, we are still unlikely to have the same income as we are not as confidence in making financial decisions. Making investments seems daunting and the financial world often feels exclusive. Thankfully, there are lots of resources now to help, FinTechs such as moneybox make investments for you, whilst vestpod is a new hub for women designed to help us all get smarter about money. Make wise financial decisions and you won’t regret it.
With all this information at your fingertips having a difficult conversation about pay with your current employer or prospective employer should feel considerably easier. However, if it still gets you nowhere then you need to bet on yourself. Have the self-belief to stick to your convictions and if you’re not getting what you want where you are now – go somewhere else where you are accurately valued. The reason why salaries plateaued for such a long time after the financial crisis of 07–08 was because people weren’t moving jobs so companies had no reason to fight for staff by increasing salaries. Jump ship to a better company that treats you how you deserve to be treated OR take even more control and leverage the on-demand economy to let yourself be your own boss. Go freelance full-time or as a side-hustle and feel empowered by exploring the demand for you personally and not your company.
Ultimately it is about time that we realise that we are not Ariel, the little mermaid. We did not sign away our voices to an evil sea witch in order to be able to walk on land. We have both our voices and our legs at our disposal and it’s time we used them to both walk the walk AND talk the talk. Demonstrate your worth and then fairly demand that you are accurately compensated for it. You will thank yourself later and so will all the women climbing up the ladder behind you.
* Original article on Medium *