There are still no sectors in the UK economy where women are paid the same as men, with Government statistics showing that the median pay gap in the year 2018 /2019 was 11.9%.
Rachel Massey, Director of Communications and negotiation expert at Huthwaite International, discusses how to negotiate a pay rise in the gender pay gap climate.
There are many reasons to feel uncomfortable about negotiating a pay rise. But, perhaps the most important one is that employees often lack information: we don’t know how much we are worth, how much others are paid and how much employers are willing to pay.
With such a disadvantage, the process of talking about money becomes daunting – at the very least it’s easy to become unsure of how to start the conversation and what to ask for. Here are five tips that can be used to close the gender pay gap and secure equal pay.
1. Be prepared
Don’t get mad at a certain project and then barge into your boss’s office demanding more money. Arm yourself with information. In all negotiations, you need to be prepared with as much information as possible.
Have evidence of how your work has evolved, what new responsibilities you have undertaken and standout pieces of work you have delivered since your last pay review.
You will also need proof that other people in your role are being paid more, particularly if those counterparts are male. Online salary surveys can be useful but talk to friends, colleagues and mentors that are comfortable divulging this information. This helps you to think about the value you bring in terms of your experience and proven performance.
You will also need information about your employers – have other females tried to negotiate better salaries and what has the reaction been? Is the company experiencing growth or decline and how were you involved in that? What is the company policy on pay? Does the business have over 250 employees and will they be having to disclose information on their pay gaps? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before entering the negotiation process.
There is no such thing as too much knowledge, gather as much information as possible to help you in that meeting.
2. Give them time
Arrange the meeting in advance and make sure your manager knows what to expect. Managers tend not to like surprises and you don’t want them to feel blindsided. They will automatically become defensive and negative, particularly so if you start to accuse them of paying your colleagues more because of their gender.
When it comes to pay negotiations, putting them on the spot will only make for a stressful, tense situation that is far less likely to result in a positive outcome. Most of the time your manager will then have to sell your case to their manager, so you will need them onside.
3. Be ready for negotiation
The biggest downfall for most people when asking for a pay rise is that they don’t expect any counter negotiation.
Be clear with yourself on what your boundaries are. How much scope for flexibility are you going to allow? What are you willing to accept or not accept?
You have the option to go back with a compromise and other suggestions. Think about a solution that could fit in well with your strategy. There may be different elements of your pay that could be interchangeable or traded-off. Identify what these could be so that you know what your options are.
And remember, your current employer is unlikely to pay you the same as a company looking to hire you. When you’re under contract, your employer will try and hold you at the lowest possible rate. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a package that will work well for you, just be clear about what you want and why you deserve it.
4. Use the power of silence
Don’t be tempted into speaking or committing yourself to an offer too early. Human instinct is to fill those awkward silences with words, leading a person to ramble. This will result in you tripping yourself up and will put you automatically on the back foot. Don’t feel pressure to become overly talkative.
The real value in these meetings come from the replies you get back. You have to appreciate the value of silence and make sure you listen fully to the replies you receive. This is not only crucial to securing a positive outcome in this meeting but also stands you in good stead for future meetings.
Each situation is different and you may need more or less time to consider the offer depending on how close it is to what you want, and what the other options may be open to you. Don’t accept an offer during the meeting, instead explain that you need to consider it and you will let them know the next day.
Even if you think the offer is perfect, it is recommended that you give yourself at least a night to think it through. This also helps you stay in control of the situation. The people negotiating with you need to know this is important and it’s absolutely fair for you to take your time in making a decision or thinking about what your next move will be.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to put what you’ve agreed in writing. This gives you a paper trail and also ensures that everybody is held accountable for the next steps in the process.
Even if you’re unsuccessful in securing a raise, your boss might tell you that it’s something that can be revisited in 3-6 months. In that case, that’s exactly what you’d write in your graciously worded follow-up email – as well as making a clear note in your diary to broach the subject after the suggested time period.
First published in Lawyer Monthly