How to close the pay gap

Last week Microsoft boss Satya Nadella caused a storm by saying that women shouldn’t ask for pay rises, but rather put their trust in karma. This was his unfortunate response to the question: “What do you advise women who are interested in advancing their careers, but not comfortable … with asking for a raise?”

If Nadella is right – then why is there still a 20 per cent pay gap between male and female salaries – clearly karma is not working.

Pay equality is a critical issue and Nadella’s ‘gaffe’ has brought it to the world’s consciousness. Whilst he has apologised for his remarks and says he wants to be a role model for other CEOs in fostering diversity and equality – how should women approach the pay question at work? How can they ask for a pay rise or equal pay with confidence?

40 years after Equal Pay Act women still paid less

Women are still paid significantly less than men for performing the same roles four decades after the Equal Pay Act outlawed less favourable pay and conditions in the workplace for women.

Research in August 2014 by the Chartered Management Institute suggests that female bosses earn 35 per cent less than male colleagues. The research also found that the average pay gap between men and women aged 46 and 60 stands at £16,680 a year, while among company directors men take home £21,084 more than female colleagues.

Many people point to institutional gender issues for the continuing existence of a pay gap between what men and women earn today.

It also seems that women struggle with the confidence to ask for a pay rise, whereas men don’t. Women often don’t want to be seen to be too demanding and some may even be fearful that doing so could threaten their career prospects.

The fact is that women are far less likely to ask for improved pay, benefits and advancement than their male colleagues – which could cost upwards of half a million pounds worth of salary over a woman’s working life. It is not that a woman can’t ask – it is just that generally speaking, she is less likely to ask. So why is it the case?

Why are women paid less than men?

Often women can be afraid of the possible negative reactions from their managers and superiors and don’t want to appear overly assertive or greedy.

Whilst they have worked hard to be equals in the workplace, the image of a women having to act like a man to get what they want prevails in some boardrooms and this overly aggressive female is not a stereotype many women want to embrace.

Another possibility is that they are not as motivated by money as their male counterparts. Maybe the enjoyment she gets from a role, the working relationships and the profile override the need to be earning more. Women of course sometimes struggle with self-worth and confidence, especially in an overly male environment. This may lower her expectations, which in turn drives her behaviour.

What they fail to realise however, is that negotiating pay is expected and is a respected quality in a member of staff.

Discussing a salary rise also gives someone the opportunity to highlight how they are contributing to the business and the skills they have, something in large organisations many managers will not necessarily notice unless they are told. Women need to highlight their strengths in the workplace and do their own PR, something that can come more easily to men than women.

Whilst it is OK for women not to ask for the level of pay they deserve as an active choice, it does not make sense to get upset when they later find out that a male colleague doing the same job is earning a lot more than them. This can then make women feel like they have been taken advantage of and can start to impact their performance, causing a negative and downward spiral.

Whatever the reason for not asking for equal pay, it is important that women start to take responsibility for what they are paid and think about what action can be taken to close the gap and to be paid the same as men for the same jobs.

Here are ten tips to help women ensure they are paid what they are worth:

Fully understand the value of your job – understanding the core responsibilities, requirements and expectations of your job and how it contributes to the wider business will support any salary review discussion.

Research – build a network of trusted colleagues who contribute insights on critical issues that need to be resolved including the sort of pay that you should be earning. It’s important to find out what other people doing your kind of job are earning in your region and specialism. Knowledge is power as they say.

Distinguish your worth – conduct a SWOT on yourself to fully understand your main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities you can benefit from and threats you can convert to opportunities.

Build a network of well-connected head hunters who let you know about what else matches your skills and value and what that would be worth – rather than avoid their calls as a drain on your time. Once you know what you are worth, you are less likely to feel greedy, selfish, unseemly or petty when asking for your pay rise.

Create your value proposition – understand your worth to the organisation, your manager and your team – find out what is important to them and what they are dealing with. Think about how you can support them and add value.

Prepare your heart and mind as well as your logical case – develop the ability to be your authentic self when making the request. Often people experience a state change when they do something that is a bit scary. It is almost like a monster takes control of their body – or the diva comes out. Learn to master the ‘Diva’ within so that she works for you and not against you.

Practice your pitch – practice with a friend who reminds you of the person you are planning to negotiate with and role-play the different ways the conversation could go. It’s always useful to record these practice sessions and repeat until you have control of the diva/monster.

Plan and implement powerfully – make sure you know what salary and package would represent your worth based on your value proposition and think about what else would represent that worth to your manager, team and organisation. Write down a minimum and ‘breakthrough’ value and package so that you have a range from which to negotiate.

Timing is everything – ensure you make your request at the right time. Don’t discuss pay/promotion until an offer is made to you or there is an opportune moment. This may be at an annual performance review or ONCE you have been offered a job (not before) – or when you see a sudden demand for your skills in the market. Don’t disclose how much you want – ask them what your value proposition would be worth and explore/negotiate from there.

Use the power of silence – it’s important not to commit to a pay rise offer too early. Negotiation is all about pacing, so be prepared to take some time to think about what is being offered before responding, whether it’s what you wanted or way off the mark.

Live in abundance, choose powerfully and be open – you may not get a yes the first time round, but don’t relate to this as a failure or a no. Think about what you can learn from it. What can you create that works for both you and ‘them’ and what are your other options?

Image: women in business via Shutterstock