Something I remember very clearly from my time at VWA is a talk held by Victoria Wall herself to a room full of our clients shortly after I joined three years ago. The talk centred on the debate around the gender pay gap, something well documented, but it looked at it from a standpoint that at the time I hadn’t heard much about – whether the pay gap might be due to a confidence gap or a compensation gap. Victoria gave us all food for thought that day and I wanted to revisit some of the points on what I feel is a very fitting day – International Women´s Day. Whilst this debate on the gender pay gap is both a divisive and not all-encompassing one, it does evoke conversation about how we can take back some control and have greater awareness and influence over our own environment.
Two terms that need to be understood before going any further:
1) unequal pay if a woman is paid a different amount for doing the same job as a male colleague
2) gender pay gap in total pay between all women and all men in a company
When Victoria first gave this talk, the average national pay gap (for 2017) was 18.4%, so the good news is that with the coverage of this topic and increased awareness and accountability, the gender pay gap has decreased to 15.5% in 2020. The data is understandably complicated and there are a multitude of reasons for the gap existing, including social, political, educational and physiological reasons. However, I want to look at the confidence side of this argument and some practical solutions of how we can ensure this gap is as small as possible.
"In general, men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both, whilst their performances do not differ in quality."
Study after study confirms that perfectionism is largely a female issue. We don’t answer a question until we are totally sure. We don’t hand in that report until we have edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t apply for a promotion until we meet 100% of required competencies – in contrast, men will apply when they only meet 60%. This is also something that worsens with age - statistics prove that with age men grow more confident and their self-belief increases.
As women age, they become stronger self-critics, are more likely to compare and measure themselves against other’s performance in the workplace and allow this to impact self-perception and the price tag we give ourselves.
Key things to think about to ensure you are not being underpaid because of your gender:
• Be assertive – this is of course a balancing act. If you are not assertive enough, you won’t get the results you are looking for, but equally if you are too assertive, then it can come across as bolshy. When being assertive it is useful to come armed with facts on why you are asking for what you’re asking for, whether this is around salary or not. One great way to remind your manager or HR of your worth is to keep a folder in your inbox of every piece of praise you have received so that you can assert your worth when needed.
• Know what you want from the conversation and where you are willing to compromise - do your research and think about the questions that may come up in the meeting or discussion, ensuring you are able to answer those effectively and in turn control the conversation. Also think about what result you would be happy with ahead of time and if that result doesn’t come up, calmly explain why you won’t be accepting that.
• Don’t apologise for asking – on average women apologise 10x more than men. Whilst it is incredibly important to know when you’re in the wrong, and apologise then, women often apologise in situations where we don’t need to – but asking for a sensible raise is not one of those situations.
• Do not expect to get the answer you want immediately – be prepared for the answer to your request to be no but don’t accept that as the end of the conversation. On average, men ask for a raise 5x more often than women do. Women tend to have the conversation when they are already frustrated at not being paid what they think they are worth, whereas men often chance it and take a risk earlier than this.
Hopefully this has provided some food for thought for hiring managers and employees alike. Feel free to reach out and have a discussion with any member of the team here if you’d like to discuss further.