3 Coaching Tips for Talking Pay Inequality With Your Boss


After reading this opening you might feel like lying down in a darkened room, but don’t, darlings. Get what you deserve! Then lie down in a darkened room if you want…

The current gender pay gap in the UK stands at 9.4 %. For women working full time in 2016, the average hourly wage stood at £12.82, 9.4 per cent less than the average of £14.16 earned by men working full time. One analysis, by consultants Deloitte, estimated that at the current pace of change , i.e. very slow, the pay gap will not be eradicated until 2069 – or 99 years after the Equal Pay Act. Good grief.

It’s a recognised issue and steps are being taken to address it, as you know. In April this year, in the UK, all employers with more than 250 staff were required by law to collect data so they can publish their gender pay gap, gender bonus gap and a breakdown of how many women and men get bonuses. This is, of course, a form of naming and shaming, not necessarily good news for employers but potentially good news for those of us wishing to challenge our own levels of pay in house. No employer wants to be seen as the villain of the piece, do they? However, employers have a year to make this information public so it may be difficult to get your hands on the information you need just now.

Pay inequality comes up often when I am coaching. Generally, women feel anxious about asking for more money, or angry that they have to. Either state of mind is not helpful when you want to be assertive and get a good outcome, without having to move job.

My 3 Tips for having the equal, (as in more) pay conversation

1.Gather as much knowledge and information as you can. There is masses of information about the benefits to busineses of gender diverse organisations, but in brief, organisations with women in significant positions of authority make more money. (Check out McKinsey). That’s the bottom line for most businesses so make sure you know it. If possible get the information for your industry sector. Have your business case ready at your finger tips.

2. Have a solution to propose. Start from the premise that most managers mean well. (This may be a stretch for you, but I was one once and I always meant well, honestly!) Everyone gets stuck in ‘the system’ and no one likes getting a problem dumped on their desk without a solution or two to accompany it. Be clear what you want the outcome to be, what your bottom line is. It may be that you are making the case solely for yourself, but if there are two or three of you in the same position, get together. In some organisations pay is negotiated individually, which can be a two edged sword as it’s tricky to find out what others earn, ( I was once coaching a client who, by accident, was given her male colleague’s pay slip. That was how she found out he was earning significantly more money with significantly less experience. She subsequently asked for, and got, a major pay rise.) Find out what the knock on effects of increasing your pay may be and be ready to counteract it. It is easier to negotiate an individual pay rise when it doesn’t have a massive knock on effect (as in case of dinner ladies asking for parity with dustmen).

Years ago, when I was working part time, I discovered an anomaly with bank holidays. Most bank holidays were on a Monday. Almost all the part timers were women. If Mondays was one of your working days you had the day off and got paid. If it wasn’t, tough. I did actually work a Monday so had no complaint but I once I spotted it I couldn’t leave it there. Not for nothing am I the daughter of a Trades Unionist who can’t bear to see unfairness at play. I gathered information about how many were affected, what the solution was, (aggregate the days and allow time off pro rata, or pay extra) and took it to senior management. They listened and eventually changed the system. No one had raised it before and they simply hadn’t noticed. There is still an equality issue with part time pay, for both men and women.

3. Do not take this personally, even if you think it is. When talking try to keep the language in the third person, avoiding ‘You’ and ‘I’ too much. Talk about businesses, profitability, and industry norms. If someone feels they are being attacked they will respond defensively. A good line of defence is to attack so you may find they try to justify it by asserting that you are not as experienced, or as qualified, or as capable. We know from research that this is rarely the case but once it gets personal it’s hard to get the result you want. Keep the end in mind. If you are angry, deal with that before discussions; I do believe there is a case for showing justifiable anger but not just yet.

Finding out you are being paid less is potentially confidence sapping. Be aware of this. Before you have the conversation remind yourself of your own strengths and capabilities. Get a friend to reinforce it. Familiarise yourself with the notion of unconscious bias and know that we all have it in one form or other.

Remember, to be paid equally you don’t have to be better than the men, just as good as the men. And you are!

PS. I’d also advise you to leave some of Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s books lying around the office. Read them yourself. Really good advice.

RenewYou is my one day course for women used by many organisations to help increase gender diversity and have a team of all the talents. You can find out more here.



Posted on June 27th, 2017 by

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