Negotiate your worth: How women can help narrow the gender pay gap - Women's Agenda

Negotiate your worth: How women can help narrow the gender pay gap

The results of our recent Heat Poll, a national survey of more than 753 women in June 2013, has brought to light a belief that I have held for a long time; that women are not as comfortable negotiating their salary as men.

As I suspected, women also believe that their lack of negotiation skills is a significant contributing factor to the pay gap, not only in terms of ‘women versus men’ but also in terms of a woman’s salary versus the market rate.

The study found that 55% of women believe their poor negotiating skills contributed to their lower pay, and I have to say that I have witnessed this time and time again in my 25 years of experience as a managing director.

In my business, The Heat Group, we have a a workforce that’s approximately 70% female. It is upsetting for me when I am recruiting to see how women are generally so accepting of what is offered in terms of salary packages, whereas in almost every case, a salary package offered to a male is pushed back and then negotiated. Just three weeks ago we offered a role to a senior marketing professional and she responded with the following as negotiation mettle: “I’d obviously be prepared to earn less because I need to leave at 4:30.”

I have to say, I got quite upset with her in the interview which really caught her off guard. I explained that we pay on outputs at Heat, not hours. While it is true that most people work 8:30 to 5:30, if someone can get their work done in less hours (or different hours) then it’s ‘hats off to them’, good job. This person has settled in extremely well at Heat and is doing an outstanding job.

Our poll also found that one in four respondents stated they would accept lower pay for a role that offered flexibility in terms of hours worked. Of these women, 92% said they would take up to a 10% pay cut to achieve this. Let me ask you this: if someone has to work longer hours than typical to complete the same job as someone else, should they get paid more? No. So, why would someone get paid less if they do it faster or differently? And yet, for the longest time, women have appeared to me to be almost grateful for job offers when they require flexibility because the focus is on hours not outputs.

Negotiating is never easy for anyone, and yet men are consistently coming out on top. Women need to be better ‘salespeople’ for themselves, because after all, negotiating is selling. You outline the key attributes you are offering to the person and why they should buy what you are offering, and you then make sure you’re prepared to handle any objections they may put forward.

Here are some tips I have for women going for a new role or performance review:

  1. Check what the position offers in the industry and in the company (it is surprising how easy this is to do). Example, look on for similar roles in similar size companies. It is important to check the size of the company as this can play a large part in determining the salary being offered.
  2. Prepare a list of what you have to offer and why you are the best person for the role. Focus on what you will achieve – and not the way you need to structure your hours to deliver this.
  3. Ask the difficult questions – how does this package compare with other people in the company in similar roles? Would my package be disadvantaged in any way because I require flexibility?
  4. Set an expectation of next reviews. What sort of increase can I expect if I deliver against my KPI’s? Is this the company standard?
  5. Role-play with someone so you have been through the negotiation process a few times before you need to do it with your manager. Ask your support person to be tough and challenge you with some difficult questions so you are prepared.
  6. Stick to your core deliverables. Be confident and focus on the fact that you will get the job done – not how you will get it done.

Our poll has given some insight into why the pay gap exists. Now it is up to Aussie women to step up. Women need to stop being apologetic about their flexibility requirements and focus on the value they bring to the job. If you don’t believe that you’re worth it, why would your employer?

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