How Asking For More Can Help Redress The Gender Pay Gap
Research shows that men are 40% more likely to be promoted into management roles than women, and many businesses openly acknowledge that a gender pay gap (how much male employees earn on average compared to female employees) still exists in their company.
This creates a vicious cycle; it’s demotivating for women to negotiate only to continue to be paid less, knocked back for promotion or overlooked for new opportunities.
By perpetuating these male and female business stereotypes (where men are 40% more likely to be promoted into management), we teach our children and our children’s children that there’s little point in self-advocacy.
However, research also indicates that women are not always paid less due to unconscious bias (though it can certainly be a major contributing factor). Sometimes women are paid less because they do not actively negotiate for more; we have a responsibility to help break the cycle (see this BBC article).
Women are highly capable of successful negotiation; for example, mothers are world-class negotiators. They negotiate everything, from bathtime, meals, screen time, homework and sleepovers, to clothing. Powerful female leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Karren Brady and Amanda Staveley are renowned for being strong women with great negotiation skills.
We know that men and women can (and frequently do) negotiate well, so let’s look at the common barriers that discourage women from asking for what they want (we’ll be exploring this topic and offering in-depth insights in our webinar for members only on Wednesday, November 17th, the day before this year’s Equal Pay Day in the UK).
The main barriers
From our coaching work it’s clear that women excel at negotiating on behalf of someone else. I’ve witnessed women negotiating brilliantly for their teams. However, there are three main barriers that discourage women from asking for what they want for themselves:
- Fear of the consequences.
- Belief that their work should speak for itself.
- Too little too late.
1) Fear of the consequences
Our coaching clients tell us they are worried that their request will be rejected. They are afraid of failure and how it might affect their work dynamic. I remind them that “No” is not the end of the world (it’s an opportunity for a future negotiation).
2) Belief that their work should speak for itself
The second barrier to opening negotiation is the thought that a pay rise, promotion or new opportunity should be automatic, based on performance. However, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog, you have to proactively highlight your strengths. Every day we make decisions about what to buy or not buy, and most of those decisions are based on marketing campaigns and what suits us best. Women need to adopt a similar strategy whereby they actively highlight, and are recognised for, their specific abilities.
3) Too little too late
A reluctance to enter into negotiation and ask for what you want can cause a build up of emotion (for men and women) which dilutes the ability to present a strong case. Look at it this way, if you are thirsty and you hesitate to ask for a drink of water, you’ll become dehydrated, think less clearly and within a matter of days you’ll be so desperate for water that you won’t be able to articulate your needs.
Successful negotiation comes from clarity and objectivity; a case (for a pay rise, new opportunity or promotion) needs to be presented without emotion, and it must outline the benefits for the other person or the business as a whole.
So how do we learn to negotiate better?
Here are some key tips:
- Listen to what the other person (or people) are saying they need from a specific role and highlight how you can or are meeting those needs; you cannot make the whole conversation about you. If you are not successful this time, pay attention to the reasons you are given and prepare to address those in future dialogue.
- Timing is imperative: act sooner rather than later. Gauge the best time to start a conversation; does this person prefer to respond quickly or need to have more time to consider?
- Demonstrate your capabilities and strengths and how those are of benefit to the other person. For example, explain why you believe you are an ideal candidate for promotion and how that will support the company’s objectives.
- Be persistent. Through practice, your ability to negotiate will become second nature which directly increases the probability of a successful outcome.
I’ve been in a room full of men where they’ve urged me to lead a negotiation because they recognise my skill. I’m not an anomaly.
Women are powerful negotiators; to help tackle the gender pay gap (and create a brighter, more profitable future for everyone), we need to overcome concern about asking for what we want, clearly articulate what we bring to the table and begin negotiations as soon as possible.
In next week’s blog, we’ll share with you four ways to fine-tune your negotiation skills.
If you are ready to overcome the challenges and self-talk that holds you back, so you can successfully progress your career goals, contact Elevate Talent. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.