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Sunday 19th May 2024

Gender pay gap: how to ask for a raise in 2023

Mouthy financial planning expert and founder of Money Means Helena Wardle looks at the gender pay gap and reasons why you should be asking for that pay rise in 2023 

Gender pay gap how to ask for a raise?

The gender pay gap took a real hit in the latest figures for 2022/23, the largest increase since 2018. 

In 2022, women in the UK took home 9.4% less than men. Four in five (80%) of businesses paid their female staff less than males.  

The gap is huge in some industries (IT, automotive, engineering) but non-existent in others (pharmacy, domestic services, primary education), but the glass ceiling is thickening as the gap goes into reverse. 

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Women who want to climb the career or pay ladder face barriers. We all know this. PhD papers, books and whole government departments are dedicated to the subject so we’re not going to crack it in ~700 words. 

We’re just going to ask a question: what do you value? 

The confidence paradox 

Writing in Harvard Business Review following publication of his book on the topic, psychologist Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic offered three popular excuses people give for the lack of women in big jobs: 1) they’re incapable 2) they’re uninterested and 3) system prejudice. 

But he also offers a wildcard fourth idea rooted in society’s problematic relationship with confidence. People are, he says, unable to discern between confidence and competence, thus the quiet aren’t as likely as the loud to be noticed and rewarded. 

See, women outperform men in terms of emotional intelligence. That reads like a wonderful asset to have in the arsenal but emotional intelligence is associated with humility and modesty. Those are two traits we don’t overly value at work. 

It has been proven (again and again) that humility lends itself to good job performance, while arrogance and overconfidence correlate with underperformance, but herein lies the paradox: 

What it takes to get a big job, or a raise, or an opportunity is the exact reverse of what that person needs to perform the role well. 

Smile pretty and play it safe 

That women are humbler than men may be nature, but it’s almost certainly nurture. 

Reshma Saujani, chief executive and founder of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect (a New York Times bestseller), believes humility and risk-aversion are seeds planted in girls from a young age. 

“We raise our boys to be brave, but our girls to be perfect,” she says. 

Saujani writes that girls are traditionally taught to avoid risks, smile pretty, stand back and play it safe while boys are encouraged to play rough, aim high, take risks and fear not. 

There’s a little old school in the mix here too. Freud wrote that humans naturally want to recognise and promote brave, confident and even narcissistic people. We see hubris and leadership as peas in a pod. 

Silent wheel, time to squeak 

A Hewlett Packard workplace study found men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria, yet women will apply only if they meet 100% of the criteria. 

Pew Research Centre found that one in three men (32%) have asked for a pay rise in recent days compared to far fewer women. 

A cost-of-living crisis may be the right moment to consider not what society values but what you yourself value. If that’s competence, and you embody exactly that at work, then male or female it might be time to test what it is your employer values. 

We can probably all agree that, still today, the squeaky wheel gets the grease but maybe humility isn’t the wheel that stays silent. Maybe it’s the wheel that picks the right moment to squeak. 

Practical steps 

Seeking a pay rise or more responsibilities at work isn’t just a matter of valuing yourself or picking your shot, there are practical steps too. 

Think about the following before, during and after exploring a pay rise: 

  • Research your industry salaries and gauge where you sit. If you feel you’re not being valued correctly then have a word with the people who call the shots. 
  • Look at the career path and wage growth ahead of you and figure out if it fits your definition of financial wellbeing. Should you conclude that even in ten years time you won’t be where you want to be then perhaps consider retraining. 
  • If you’re in a career where the pay is low but the satisfaction is high (maybe you’re an icky guy) then it may be on you to prop up the financial side of your game via saving, investing, planning and budgeting to buy the headroom you need. 

What do you value? (please say yourself) 

We’ve done the squeaky wheel, and there are more cliches we can call on, but the message today is to value yourself … 

Humility isn’t being servile or scraping but knowing your place and what you’re worth – no more and, crucially, no less either. 

To ask that this is reflected in the way others treat you isn’t overconfident or arrogant, it’s still humility. Indeed, the essence of the pay argument is equal work for equal pay – no more, no less. 

Photo credits: Pexels

Helena Wardle

Helena Wardle is a chartered financial planner, business owner and co-founder at Money Means. Helena loves helping people figure out what money means to them. ⁠She started her first business aged 10 and realised that money, for her, means freedom. It meant the freedom to move thousands of miles away and build a career, a business, a life.⁠

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