The statistics around the gender pay gap are relentlessly grim. In Australia women typically earn about $25,000 less than men, and in the United States women earn just 84% of what men earn. Many believe that the pandemic has made this disparity even worse. At the current rate of change, it will take 257 years for women and men to receive equal pay, according to the United Nations. And to put the cherry on top of it all, Around 73% of men believe that both genders are paid equally! They assume their female colleagues are paid just as much as they are.
Having led a career of disruption in male-dominated global industries, I know from experience that the root of the problem is society’s inability to outgrow ingrained sexism … and that’s a battle we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. But while women continue to fight for the equity and respect we’ve always deserved, we can take smaller steps individually. We can stand up for our worth as employees and contributors. We can ask for a raise.
Why women don’t ask for salary increases
From a very young age, society conditions women to believe that their contributions carry less monetary value than those of men. This stays with us into adulthood and the job market. We never even consider that the work we do around the house, raising our kids, or keeping our families stable is work that merits compensation, and we unintentionally downplay our career capabilities. Studies have shown that women are less likely to apply for a job even though they may tick off 8 out of 10 criteria; we assume we must meet 100% of the qualifications or we won’t even be considered. Men on the other hand, will apply if they only tick off 3 out of 10, assuming they can learn as they go.
We’re underselling ourselves.
We’re not asking for what we deserve, with the majority of women going their entire careers without asking for a raise. Not feeling confident in asking for a higher salary often stems from our fear of being rejected, and our fear of having our inner “not good enough” voice validated.
As a speaker, author and advisor dedicated to helping women step into their bravery, I’ve heard many stories from women who’ve been too afraid to ask for pay raises fearing that doing so would put their jobs on the line. One in particular struck me as poignant: A middle-aged woman with decades of experience and institutional knowledge told me she hadn’t had a pay raise in 13 years! Think of the erosion of her pay packet thanks to inflation over that time!
After much encouragement, she asked for, and received, a pay rise. She was valued by her company, but that fact hadn’t been reflected back to her in dollar terms until she asked for more. It can be hard to accept that our employers may play hardball, but they often do. They have no legal obligation to raise our pay and may hold out on doing so until we force the issue. Until we ask.
This can be a terrifying realization. So much so that many of us do just about anything to avoid that difficult conversation with our supervisor or boss. In fact, rather than be rejected for a pay raise, many women will simply look for higher-paying jobs externally. This can come at a personal cost much greater than summoning the courage to ask your boss for a raise.
If you find yourself in this boat—making plans to jump ship rather than advocating for more money—ask yourself why.
Have you given your current employer the chance to prove that they value you? Is avoiding one challenging conversation really worth leaving and starting over somewhere new? In the course of my work as a Disruptor of Bravery, I’ve worked with dozens of women who are struggling to advocate for themselves. I remind all of them that fear is a natural part of the process. The presence of fear is actually an indicator that you are following the right path!
Mustering the courage to ask is the next step on that road, but courage can’t appear if fear isn’t present first. Feeling that fear creates an opportunity to exercise your bravery and grow stronger. Bravery means being terrified and moving forward anyways … though not without a plan.
How women can advocate for pay raises
I’ve never advised my clients to barge into their supervisors’ offices and start making demands without first preparing themselves. It’s impossible to remove the fear from a salary negotiation, but creating a thoughtful proposal before you step into the conference room makes the whole experience far less overwhelming.
Start by building a business case for your raise in your own mind to help summon your courage and explain your reasoning, and then put that case to your boss. List out your duties and accomplishments, and research industry standard salaries for someone with your skills. Clearly outline your qualifications, experience, and tenure. Always keep in mind that it costs your employer far less to raise your pay than to hire someone new.
After the costs of recruiting and training a new hire to the same level as the previous employee are taken into account, the company will have shelled out AT LEAST the equivalent of an employee’s annual salary. This means your boss is much more likely to agree to your pay raise than risk letting you go and hiring someone else.
One of the bravest things you can do in life as a woman is take control of your financial future. A pay raise now doesn’t just mean more money today. It means more options for your future, the potential for financial independence, and the promise of a comfortable retirement. It takes courage to advocate for yourself and demand what you’re worth. Especially in a world that continues to pay women less than men. But you can do it, and I can help.
This guest post was authored by Rachael Evans
Rachael’s mission is to redefine bravery so that it encompasses women embracing and celebrating the bravest versions of themselves. To learn more about the Brave revolution visit https://www.therealrachael.com/