Pay rises and the gender divide

Recent research has found that women ask for pay rises as often as men, but men are 25 per cent more likely to receive a raise when they request it. So what’s the solution?

Research sshows that women ask for pay rises as often as men, but men are 25 per cent more likely to receive one when they request it. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Rachel Cook is one of eight children, six of whom are girls. Her father used to tell them they could do anything they wanted; they just had to work for it. So she did, becoming an engineer in a field so rare for women to work in that she was the first ever female in her department.

“I came in at a slightly lower level than what I was at in the UK because I didn’t know the market. It works very differently,” says Ms Cook, 38, a consultant engineer from Northern Ireland, of her transfer to working life in Dubai. “I got up to speed very quickly and ended up working at a higher level than my position dictated.”

At her annual review, she knew she deserved a rise, so asked – and got one. But she is in the minority, according to a recent study.

New research from Cass Business School, the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin shows that women ask for pay rises as often as men, but men are 25 per cent more likely to receive one when they request it.

The researchers used a randomly chosen sample of 4,600 workers across more than 800 employers in Australia, and found that when men and women were compared on a like-for- like basis, 20 per cent of men received increases, compared to 16 per cent of women.

“Women actually do ask but they don’t get as much as men or they are not as successful at receiving pay rises as men,” says report co-author Amanda Goodall, an associate professor at Cass Business School. “This is possibly an example of discrimination and women were actually discriminated against in terms of pay. Most of us would not be surprised to hear that.”

Helen McGuire, cofounder of Hopscotch, a recruitment company for professional women seeking flexible working options, agrees the survey results are sad – but also heartening.

“It shatters the illusion that women have too many hang-ups to even dare ask for a pay rise and puts them where they belong in terms of confidence and presence in the workplace,” she says.

q&a be realistic in your aims

Gillian Duncan rounds up tips from the experts on the best way to ask for a pay rise:

So are any women successfully asking for a pay rise?

Yes. The survey showed that pay rises were only problematic for women over the age of 40. “Women who are under 40 are asking the same amount as men and receiving at the same level as men. So it looks on the surface that something has shifted and women have learnt to ask more,” says Amanda Goodall from Cass Business School.

What should be your first step?

Gather information to support your case. Helen McGuire, cofounder of Hopscotch, suggests focusing on facts and figures – in other words, what you have done over and above your colleagues in the past 12 months which shows you deserve a rise, and what you will do in the next 12 months to increase individual, team and company effectiveness in the industry you work in.

And what about the meeting itself?

If you don’t ask, you won’t get. However, it is better to wait for the question of your salary to be brought up by your employer than to raise it straight away, according to Women Lawyers Association of NSW (WLANSW) in Australia. Once this has happened, you can talk about the facts and figures you prepared.

How much should you ask for?

WLANSW suggests you should be reasonable. A 50 per cent increase is unlikely to be awarded. Most employers expect to hand out increases in the 3 to 5 per cent range, so asking for 8 to 10 per cent is realistic.

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