I’ve come across a few things in the past 2 weeks which have left me unfortunately, pretty sad , frustrated and frankly in a state of confused wonderment. It’s all centred around the issue of gender divide and salary. Or to put it less esoterically – why do women earn less than men for doing similar jobs?
I’m not even talking about glass ceilings, women on boards or any other more complex and contentious issues that are perplexing a generation of management gurus, where there are whole biz school courses and grad theses devoted to the topic. No, all I’m talking about is basics : why does John earn (x) and Jane earn (x minus ) for doing comparable work, when all other factors such as education, qualifications, experience and age are equal.
I started my early career as a Corporate HR trainee in the steel industry when the ability to legally advertise lower rates of pay for women was sadly a pretty recent memory. At that time trades-union officials would even ask why there was a woman at the meeting! True! In any negotiations it was not uncommon for all the men ( large numbers) to exit the meeting room en masse, leaving me with the metaphoric handbags, gasping in a Dickensian fug ( smoking in buildings was legal too) to go to the gents bathroom. They would come back with a resolution agreement which bore only minimal resemblance to the previous 2 hour discussion which I had religiously minuted on my crisp trainee notepad. I was left bemused and bewildered. These were the days when feeling a hand on your bum in the photocopy room was par for the course and the term sexual harassment hadn’t even been invented.
Has anything changed?
So imagine my distress when I found out that despite the passage of time (…. not saying how much) this sort of unequal treatment seems to be ongoing. Today, according to Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Science and Research 60% of European graduates are female, so in real terms women should indeed be a force to be reckoned with on any job market. However, I read a few days ago, that I am living in a country which now holds 60th placing in the World Economic Forum table on the Global Gender Gap rankings sub index, relating to economic participation and job opportunity.
Marcus Buckingham in the Huffington Post tells us that it is the failure of women to actually step up and negotiate which is at the root of the problem : “according to a study at G.E., men return to the negotiating table on average six times, while women average between zero and two” . Cumulatively over a career he estimates that this shortfall could mean as much as $o.5m loss of earnings in a female employee’s bank account.
In their book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever give some further worrying statistics about the context and long-term economic implications of this passivity.
In Belgium, Isabella Lenarduzzi — founded Jump, an initiative to support women in the workplace in Belgium, which has achieved incredible success in providing a secure environment for women to pursue personal development.
Negotiation is a learned skill
But despite these efforts, unfortunately, as a recruiter I come across this discrepancy all the time with monotonous and disheartening regularity. I do believe that negotiation is a skill that can be learned and as a coach I have a segment in my programme covering salary negotiation, but as divorce rates rise and single parenthood households are also increasing, the need for women to work rapidly towards economic parity is more signficant than ever before.
So ladies, consider this:
- If a person cannot successfully negotiate for themselves it can bring into doubt their ability to effectively negotiate for their company.
- Ineffective or inconsistent negotiation practises leads to general vulnerability- not just in the work place .
- To be consistently paid less than the market rate can indicate a lack of lack of self worth – as above, leads to vulnerability.
- Good fair negotiators are respected. Self respect fosters confidence
- Despite what you think , there should be nothing you eventually can’t walk away from.
So what do you have to do to get to this happy place?:
- Understand and be able to articulate all your areas of added value. This enhances self respect and confidence and increases your expectations, because you now believe in yourself.
- Salary research – be aware of your own market place and know your value in it. Calculate any shortfall. Facts talk!
- Don’t take any discussions personally – get into business neutral. Negotiation is only a process, nothing else.
- Build a business case
- Look at fringe benefits as well as financial incentives. Benefits can eventually have a high monetary value and also play an important role in work/life balance issues. There is a caveat in the sense that generally benefits do not count toward pensionable earnings if there is a scheme. Factor this in fully.
- Evaluate any rejection neutrally – the question should be not be ” do you want to stay in this job?” – but “when would be a good time to leave? My employer doesn’t value me”.
If you discover that you are paid below the market rate , need to negotiate a salary to start a new job only to find yourself struggling with that process you have 2 options only: find yourself a career coach a.s.a.p. or find yourself another employer.