It’s a widely known fact that women are often paid less well than their male colleagues when performing the same role. This is not breaking news, it’s no surprise to anyone. In fact, we’ve all known it for so long that we’ve just sort of accepted it as a sad truth that we’re waiting for someone else to fix, instead of being furious about it. We should be furious, it’s an absolute outrage – and we should be using that feeling to motivate us to get active and make changes to make life better for ourselves.
The reality is that we’re part of the problem. Part of the reason women are undervalued comes from unconscious bias in the minds of the people in companies who control pay – but another part of it is down to women and the way we behave. Or maybe more accurately, the way that we have been taught to behave, and the words we’re expected to use, and how people respond to us when we do anything that’s not inside of those expectations – like telling them we want a pay rise.
They were giving me a very clear ‘We (literally) don’t value you’ message before I was even in the door.
We have to get comfortable asking for more. It’s essential to every aspect of our lives. Not big outlandish demands, but well researched, reasonable and justified expressions of what we’re worth, what we need and what we know we deserve.
Did you negotiate your first jobs’ salary? I know I didn’t. Did you negotiate your most recent salary, or your latest pay rise? I did, and you need to too. I’m going to make two more posts: one about how to negotiate a salary for a new job, and one about asking for what you deserve in the job you already have – whether that’s negotiating a pay rise or a promotion.
‘But it’s not my fault! I was raised in the patriarchy!’ you cry. I know, I promise, me too! I know it’s hard and scary, and it feels like it would be the end of the world if we asked for more money and got told no. We’d have to run away and live in the forest with a fake name, or maybe we’d just dissolve into a big puddle of embarrassment right there in our bosses office. But it’s not true, bosses and line managers are used to talking about salaries with people. And sometimes they say no, for all kinds of reasons. And if that happens it’s still fine – it’s just the start of another conversation about when and how.
I was made an offer for my first job in advertising for a rate that was lower than the advertised salary. I was young, and I was feeling shaken by having recently been made redundant, and the company who made me the terrible offer were famous, so I said yes. Despite the fact that they were giving me a very clear ‘We (literally) don’t value you‘ message before I was even in the door.
I didn’t want to seem greedy and unappreciative. At the end of the meeting when my boss said ‘and good news – we’re giving you a raise!’
I looked at her, ‘Oh.’ I said. ‘Why?’
It took less than a year for me to leave for a new company. Even though I had negotiated a pay rise after 3 months I had realised that the company was never going to value me, and that was going to mean I stopped valuing myself. So I got out.
That move meant a £13,000 pay bump. It was great – it was so great in fact that I felt rude even thinking about negotiate it up, so again I took it without negotiating. The job was exhausting – it was a start up, with all of the exciting responsibility, all nighters that come with it, and to be frank I worked my ass off. When my three month review came, despite all of the missed plans with friends, the stress and the crazy deadlines, I still wasn’t going to ask for a pay rise. They had already given me such a big step up how could I ask for more? I didn’t want to seem greedy and unappreciative. At the end of the meeting when my boss said ‘and good news – we’re giving you a raise!’ I looked at her, ’Oh.’ I said. ‘Why?’ It took someone else to see my worth and advocate on my behalf. It was amazing that she did, but we don’t always have these people there looking out for us – we have to look out for ourselves and be our own advocates. I later found out that the other person who had been hired on the same day as me to do the same job hadn’t been so reluctant to negotiate on pay. My pay rise was bringing me up to the salary that they had always been on. Because they had asked for what they wanted and I hadn’t I’d been paid less for 3 months.
I have vowed now to never just accept a job without negotiating. I’ve taken responsibility for my own financial and professional growth. I schedule regular catch ups with my line manager about what I’m achieving and the training I need to help me to achieve more. I’m asking for what I want, and it’s scary, but it’s more than worth it to be the master of my own life.