gender pay scale-July17The media has been flooded this week with news of the huge gender pay disparities revealed in the BBC’s unprecedented report of top earners.  With 7 men at the top of the earnings tree and women representing only a third of its 96 highest paid and earning a fraction of the salaries paid to their male colleagues it is unsurprising that female stars have expressed outrage.

The BBC is not the only organisation with huge pay gaps.   According to the 2016 Office of National Statistics Report the average pay for full-time female employees was 9.4% lower than full-time male employees.   The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) was 18.1%.  Although this gap has been narrowing over the last 10 years there is still a long way to go to achieve financial parity.  From April 2017 UK employers will be required to include details of gender pay and bonus gaps in their annual reports.  Hopefully, this important step to bring transparency to any gender pay disparities will provide the necessary pressure and impetus for employers to put their houses in order.

What can women do to narrow the gender pay gap?

When reflecting on what women can do to address pay differentials with their male colleagues a comment by one of the BBC’s female presenters grabbed my attention:  “Women have got to get serious and stick up for each other. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that men and women have very different approaches to negotiating salary increases. In a BBC Radio 4 interview Nicola Horlick, investment fund manager, shared her thoughts on some of the reasons for the gender pay gap.  She said that most of her male colleagues negotiated hard for salary increases whereas her female colleagues tended to accept the first salary offered without question. The multiplier effect of these contrasting behaviours is to change what may have started out as a narrow pay gap to a chasm several years’ later.

Gender differences in approaches to salary negotiation

Friends tell me I “negotiate like a man!”  I have my dad to thank for passing on these skills as he liked a bargain and was a shrewd negotiator. He ran a green grocery business and I used to get up at 5 am during the school holidays for the pleasure of watching him skilfully negotiate prices at the fish and vegetable markets in Birmingham.  I was fascinated by the ease at which my dad got what he wanted and used to watch, listen and learn. It obviously paid off as a Sales Manager once asked me if I wanted a job selling cars after he had listened to me negotiating several ‘extras’ when buying a new car including a full tank of petrol, 12 month’s road tax, and parking sensors.  I was on the verge of persuading the salesman to include an MP3 player when his manager stepped in to put an end to the negotiations!

Results from a study from Carnegie Mellon University in the US demonstrate how vastly men and women differ in their approaches to salary negotiations.

  • Women, on average, ask for 30 percent less money than men.
  • Men are four times more likely to negotiate the salary for their first job than women.
  • Men are eight times more likely than women to negotiate their starting salary and benefits for a new job.
  • Women ask for salary increases or promotions 85 percent less often than their male counterparts.
  • 20 percent of women say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognise negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
  • 5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiation.
  • When asked to pick metaphors for negotiations, men picked “winning a ball game match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”

If you get a sinking feeling at the pit of your stomach when thinking about negotiating a new salary or salary increase here are a few tips to help:

1.  Ensure you are paid your true worth

With many employers struggling to attract candidates with the necessary skills and experience, if you are a talented jobseeker, you may find yourself in a stronger bargaining position. Whilst you need to be wary of pricing yourself out of the market for a new job, you also need to ensure you are paid your true worth – or ideally, slightly more. Employers might specify the salary a particular position carries, but there may still be room for negotiation in order to secure a more lucrative contract. The more in-demand your skills are, and the keener a hiring manager is to secure your signature, the greater the scope for a better offer.

2.  If you don’t ask you don’t get

You may feel uncomfortable asking an employer for more money. But in order to maximise your earning capacity, it is important to overcome any reluctance to do so. Employers will always be eager to get a good deal financially out of the person they hire, so there is no reason for jobseekers not to do the same. As the saying goes, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Humility may be an endearing quality at times, but it will not help you to pay the mortgage. Indeed, showing confidence in your abilities and asking employers to stretch a little further might just add a few pounds to your pay packet.

Employers will rarely, if ever, offer a higher salary without being prompted to do so. If you make such a request it could be rejected outright, but the hiring manager may decide to consider it. If they think you are the best candidate for the role and will add value to the organisation, it is possible some form of compromise could be reached.

3.  Make a clear commercial case of the value you bring to the organisation

If you are going to ask for a higher starting salary, it is important to make a clear commercial case for the employer to accept your request. You need to be able to explain clearly – ideally with the use of evidence and examples – why it makes sense to pay you more than the advertised rate. This means considering what makes you particularly valuable as an individual – what are your skills and what can they add to the organisation? This should build upon the information you have outlined in your CV earlier in the application process.

Employers may be interested in your level of experience, qualifications and educational background, plus your ability to sell, your industry contacts and personal clients, and perhaps even your knowledge of competitors. The more fact-based your submission is, the more likely the employer will decide to agree to your request.

4.  Be realistic when negotiating a higher starting salary

It is important to be realistic when negotiating a higher starting salary – otherwise you could jeopardise your position altogether, with the job going to someone else. Find out how much similarly skilled and experienced individuals working in the same industry are earning – this should help you assess what a good offer is. Speaking to industry contacts, checking salary guides and researching the hiring company can help build up a clearer picture.

If the idea of negotiating over pay unnerves you, it may be worth practising the conversation – running through the different scenarios so you have a clearer idea about what to say. Developing the pitch in your own time, rather than acting on the spur of the moment, should help take some of the edge off. Keeping things simple is advisable – just ask the question in clear, unambiguous terms. Not only will this avoid tying yourself in knots, it will also show the hiring manager that you mean business.

Remember that negotiating a starting salary is a business transaction – so in order for a deal to be reached, there needs to be something in it for both parties. As such, you need to be realistic and reasonable in your demands, and decide upon the lowest offer you are willing to accept. In the first instance, there is nothing wrong with asking for a higher-than-likely figure. If the employer does decide to negotiate, they will inevitably move downwards from your starting point.

5.  Patience can be key

If you do ask an employer to offer more money, it is unlikely they will agree to your request on the spot. It is entirely reasonable for the hiring manager to go away and discuss this with their colleagues or superiors following your meeting, and get back to you at a later point in time. They may even seek additional information from you to support your case, so always be prepared.

Should your negotiation fail, it is important to react in the right way – remaining gracious and composed.  Although you may it difficult, never take a refusal personally, as this is a business deal.  It may be worth asking whether other benefits – for example, additional annual leave – may be available in lieu of a higher starting salary. Potentially the hiring manager may be able to sign off on such requests, even if they are not in a permitted to offer additional pay.

Failing to secure a better pay offer isn’t the end of the world – after all, you have still managed to secure a new job. This gives you the opportunity to impress as an employee, and demonstrate your true value to your bosses. If you make the right impression during the first few months, your next conversation about salary could end up being much more fruitful.

If you need help building the skills and confidence to negotiate a better deal at work please get in touch to find out how I can help you. Christine Griffin – Executive Coach – – +44 (0)7796 147127 –