Women, Three Tips to Close the Gender Pay Gap!

Yet another report tells us what most of us know – men continue to earn significantly more money than women at senior levels.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) released a report recently estimating that at current rates of progress it will take women 98 years to reach pay equality with men.

Why Does Women’s Pay Lag Behind Men’s?

There are many reasons why women lag behind men. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • we’re still relative newcomers in terms of industrialised society to the world of business
  • the systems in place reward male types of behaviour as the systems were set up by men for men
  • there are still a lot of men in senior positions who have wives at home, or who grew up when women worked for pin money and they still have outdated attitudes (I worked in one London firm where 80% of the board had non working wives at home- well, they were working but not in a professional paid capacity!)
  • the systems in place assume a constant working life; no allowances are made for the fact that women have children (and society needs us to have those children)
  • studies show that generally speaking women undervalue their talents
  • studies show that generally speaking men over value their talents
  • pregnancy tends to occur at the most significant career point in working life, the 30s
  • some studies show that when women are contemplating parenthood they begin to withdraw competitively a few years before the event- a ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality ensues
  • studies show women don’t ask for enough money initially

What Can Women Do to Close the Pay Gap?

Many moons ago I had a holiday job in a large department store. I discovered, quite by accident, that the boys the same age as me, were being paid more than me. Significantly more than me. I was incensed and went marching along to the personnel department to ask why.

I think the HR manager was rather amused to have this indignant 17 year old in front of her espousing the cause of equal pay (the Equal Pay Act didn’t exist then – told you it was many moons ago) and offered me parity with the boys. But she didn’t extend that offer to the other women in the department. I refused to take my increase unless she offered it to all the girls as it was blatantly unfair, unless she was saying all the girls were less able than the boys. She conceded that this was not the case and that the girls probably worked harder overall. We all got a rise, although she did include a longevity clause so those who had been there longest got more!

First tip -In this instance I think women need to stick together. Most of the equal pay actions brought in this country have been class actions, with whole groups of women challenging the notion that women’s work is worth less than the male equivalent.

That works well at one level where pay scales are published and a matter of record, but at senior level it’s much harder to find out what others earn. But don’t let that stop you trying! Get rid of that embarrassment and challenge the system, preferably collectively. (But don’t opt for a women’s group which excludes men – make it a policy issue and get supportive men on board too)

Second TipPlan your career and work out well in advance what you are going to do about the baby issue. Don’t automatically assume it will disadvantage you as you’ll subconsciously be giving this message out to your co workers and boss . Work out what you can do to mitigate it’s effect on your career and also realise that running a home and rearing a new child can have a massive skill base too. All transferable.

Having a baby can be overwhelming so you really do need to plan for this in advance! Keep your end goal in sight. You may have to zig zag a bit but you can still get there.

Third Tip – Make sure you get what you’re worth in the first place. Don’t undersell yourself. Check out what the industry norm is and ask for more. You’ll be putting down a marker for your future worth too. Get regular reviews of your pay, even if it’s not particularly important to you (and studies do seem to show that money is not the main criteria for women). You need to recognise that in the professional world worth and value are linked to pay.

If this is an issue close to your heart take a look at this, my course specifically looking at gender differences at work. It’s called Speak Up and is at a beautiful 5* hotel because you’re a valuable commodity who shouldn’t be selling herself short!

Photo Credit: Designawards4us.com


Posted on September 5th, 2011 by

2 Responses to “Women, Three Tips to Close the Gender Pay Gap!”

  1. Clare B says:

    Jane I agree with all your comments & advice (as usual!). And I would add that everyone who has people working for them ought to check who is getting paid what. Any hint of gender inequality should be challenged. Don’t be afraid to ask the HR dept and other managers whether there are genuine reasons for this and if there aren’t, I suggest a zero tolerance approach. Unless we all champion equality in our own teams, nothing will change.

  2. […] Men benefited more They found that overall men benefited more than women when adopting the recommended strategies for getting ahead. Even when women used the same career advancement strategies — doing all the things they have been told will get them ahead – they advanced less than their male counterparts and had slower pay growth. (If this topic interest you take a look at three tips to close the gender pay gap). […]

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