Why Women Need A Different Approach To Asking For A Pay Rise
Published in the Australian Financial Review 30th July 2015, by Jacquie Hayes
Blow your own trumpet more is the advice to women seeking pay rises at work.
How is it that men are so, well, self-promoting and women generally are not? Girlfriends and I have shared many entertaining conversations over the years about the tendency of our male counterparts, particularly in the corporate world, to rave on about what we’ve viewed as rather mundane accomplishments.
Yet while we laugh, they get ahead. Women, meanwhile, go quietly about their work, striving to make a difference, then looking to see what needs to be done next. But they behave like this at their peril. And they need to stop doing it and step up if they are to get what should, by rights, be coming to them by virtue of what they give in their work roles – by which I mean more money.
Mothers of girls also need to start promoting this behaviour as normal in a man’s world so their daughters won’t feel intimidated pushing for a level playing field.
There are plenty of studies outlining the pay disparity between male and female executives regardless of education, tenure and merit. But recent research and commentary around women’s inability to be heard or recognised in the workplace highlight the need for women to change their ways. I particularly loved a gender-parity report in a recent New York Times op ed piece from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton business professor Adam Grant. It described the “tightrope” that women walk when speaking at work because they are “[e]ither … barely heard or … judged as too aggressive”.
Sandberg and Grant noted that “when a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea”.
I love the term devised by Time columnist Jessica Bennett – “bropropriating” – to describe the tendency of men to take credit for an idea put forth by a woman. And another – “manterruption” – to cover the common and unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.
FEAR OF BACKLASH
Sandberg and Grant cite research from Yale and the University of Texas to support the view that women often decide to stay quiet because they’re afraid of some sort of backlash.
But if they were able to choose between an imagined (and improbable) backlash and the prospect of a (deserved) pay rise, what should they do?
If another worldwide survey is to be believed, women don’t care as much as men about salaries and promotion, anyway. The 2015 Global Management Education Graduate Survey by the US-based Graduate Management Admission Council found that things like professional development, a good fit with the company culture and flexible work hours matter more.
Men want to impress bosses, women want work-life balance.
But guess who get the pay rises?
This is not a difficult situation to turn on its head – with no need for women to sell out on what’s important to them – as I discovered after talking with a woman who is constantly meeting with company leaders.
Charlotte Rimmer, director of the appropriately named Aide de MD, basically guides bosses who need advice or an unbiased sounding board. She’s astounded at the lack of guidance available to women and those uninitiated to the salary process in the corporate world. She’s also shocked by the naivety with which women prepare to go after what they deserve in their remuneration.
Women have just as much right – often more so – to ask for pay rises as their male colleagues but they rarely push for them. And when they do, she says.
“They’re likely to go about it in the wrong way. The problem with women is they tend to look at pay rises from a personal perspective, such as whether they’re liked or not,” Rimmer says.
WHAT VALUE IS CONTRIBUTED
What really matters is what value they actually add, such as what they’re bringing to the business from the perspective of profit and loss, and return on investment. “It is not personal so don’t go into it thinking that it is,” she says. “It’s a business decision and I think women tend to be a bit casual about it.”
There are some simple steps to improving pay-rise prospects.
“It’s important, first, to arrange a formal meeting with right person rather than, say, bringing up the prospect of a salary rise during a random encounter with the boss in the lift. Ensure that you give some warning, don’t try and blindside. It doesn’t work for anyone,” Rimmer says.
Go into the meeting with a solid business case to support your request.
“Do your research so you know what you’ve contributed to the business and what difference you’ve made,” she says. “Know what people in your industry and position are paid, then support why you deserve
with evidence. What are your strengths, what do you add?”
How often and how much you ask for will vary from industry to industry. And don’t be put off by redundancies happening around you. It doesn’t diminish your viability for a pay rise.
“If you’re employed, it’s because you’re contributing to the business,” she says. “Are you’re being paid what your value is, or are you settling because you’re nervous about being asked to take a redundancy? Have the conversation, framing it around ‘I understand times can be difficult but this is what I bring to the business’. So you’re being reasonable.”
If you get knocked back, seek constructive feedback about what you can do to improve your chances next time.
“Ask things like, ‘do you think it was a reasonable request and, if it was, was it a business decision [not to grant it]? Do you believe I could pitch for this in six months? Is there another way I can increase my value, or is there something I should be doing better that would entitle me to a salary increase?’ “
Remember there are plenty of men in the corporate world who also struggle to ask for a pay rise and take the wrong approach. But women should never, ever, think they are less deserving than the bloke who is so capable of telling everyone around him how wonderful he is.
The proof is in the performance and a good performance needs promotion. So go and get it, girls.