By LESLEY GREGORY
Yes, the gender pay gap is finally narrowing, but progress is slow.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the pay gap between men and women was 17.3% in 2019, down half a percentage point from a year earlier. The gap persists even for the highest paid among us: the ONA also found that the top 10% of women earn 80p for every £1 the top 10% of men earn.
Still, it’s encouraging to see that some initiatives in government and business are having an impact and that the benefits of improving gender diversity in the workplace are being recognised.
While it’s not the responsibility of any one woman to fix a longstanding inequity like this, are there things we can do ourselves to claw back the pay gap in the meantime? Consider these five steps to a higher income.
Know your worth
Recruitment companies and job sites regularly conduct salary surveys and many of them are readily accessible online, like this one. The start of the year is as good a time as any to check how your pay stacks up against the average. This information tells you what the market says your role is worth — useful evidence for a discussion with your manager.
Should you ask your colleagues what they’re paid? There are differing views. Some people say you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Others suggest this perhaps uncomfortable conversation may not provide a useful comparison in any case — an organisation that undervalues one person may be undervaluing others. A better comparison is with the same role elsewhere.
Studies have shown that women often underrate themselves or are wary of “self-promotion”. But if the higher-ups don’t know you’re doing a good job, how can you blame them for not giving you a pay rise? You can do this in a professional way by sharing factual information, perhaps by providing a regular, data-based report — about outcomes, not just activity. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally share positive feedback from an internal or external client, either. You don’t need to “blow your own trumpet”. The facts will speak for you.
The most obvious thing to do to ensure your contribution is fairly recompensed is to go ahead and ask for a pay rise. Don’t wait for one to be offered, and don’t assume it will come just because you’re doing a good job. There have been many studies over the years showing that women are less likely to ask for a pay rise than men. The reasons given for this are many – from confidence to culture. But, armed with the information you’ve collected about your market value and your achievements so far, there’s nothing to stop you having a professional discussion about your value to your employer.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re turned down the first time. There are reasons why your employer may not be able to say yes initially and they may not be personal. If your employer says it’s a no, take it professionally and ask when might be a good time to look at this again. Your employer now knows you have the professional confidence to ask for a pay rise and you’ll be on their radar when there’s room to move.
Become your own boss
For many women, establishing their own business has been a way of significantly lifting their income, and their job satisfaction. One study found that while 75% of female employees don’t enjoy their job 72% of women entrepreneurs consider they have their “dream job”. Who knows, you could end up being a Melanie Perkins, who founded a billion-dollar graphic design platform. At the very least, you’ll get to decide your own pay.
LESLEY GREGORY is an experienced personal finance and consumer journalist, based in Sydney, Australia. If you’re interested in more of her personal finance tips, here are some more of her most recent articles: