With the rise of Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel, Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama helping women to break the glass ceiling, it is an incredible time for women in business. Never before have so many women been in such powerful positions all at the same time – it should inspire us all to aim high.
According to figures from the Office for Nationals Statistics in February, women make up almost half of the UK’s workforce, yet they are paid 19.2 per cent less than their male counterparts. Many of us want to close this gap but don’t know how to go about it.
KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Study in 2015 revealed that six out of 10 women said they aspired to be a manager or leader within an organisation but they agree that, as women, they are cautious in taking steps forward. Women need to develop the courage and confidence to put themselves forward for a promotion or a career opportunity without being afraid of failure. The longer we remain cautious, the longer it takes for more women to reach senior positions or board level.
Sometimes, the perception can be that women need to act more like a man to get ahead, but that is not the case. Women have incredible natural skills that enable us to thrive in the workplace, potentially adding value where our male counterparts do not.
For instance, our social nature and penchant for networking enables us to create and sustain fantastic business relationships. Women are true masters in connecting people, resources and relationships. Women will remember the minute details that seem unimportant to someone else, but matter to the person you’re dealing with.
Sometimes these skills can be glossed over because, perhaps, they are perceived as inessential, however, they can be the difference between winning and losing a client contract.
Remember how confident and care-free you felt when you were ten years old? This attitude is vital when negotiating your next career move. A recent survey from Girlguiding UK showed that self-belief severely declines as girls approach the end of their school years and enter the workplace or start university. Meaning that if our confidence hits a low point in our early twenties, we need to work even harder in our 30s, 40s and beyond to re-build that confidence back up again.
With this in mind, here are my top three tips on negotiating a pay increase:
Confidence plays an important part when you want to negotiate a pay increase. You need to have a clear and confident approach in addressing why you deserve the additional income based on your performance. This is your opportunity to positively express how the business can benefit from your valued skills-set, including those that you naturally possess as a woman, so it’s important not to undersell yourself.
Exercise confidence in your daily role by volunteering for responsibilities in the office, whether it’s leading on a project or organising a social gathering. These extra activities will also add to your arsenal when it comes to negotiating as you can demonstrate where you have benefitted the company and showcased specific skills with examples.
Focus on timing and preparing for your negotiation. Women often seem to have systematically lower expectations than men and the problem with low expectations is that they can lead to lower outcomes, as expectations tend to drive behaviours. Before entering an appraisal or negotiation, write down the top five best qualities or successes you have brought to the company and highlight those key skills as valuable to your role and the overall business. Prepare a list of key points you want to raise and practice the conversation beforehand. It is a great way to boost your confidence as you know you have a strong argument and are less likely to crumble under the pressure.
- Think collaboratively
Negotiate collaboratively and look at a salary negotiation as a joint problem-solving exercise. If the salary doesn’t meet your expectations, ask your line manager how you could work together to bridge the gap. Negotiating effectively allows you to work together to meet in the middle whilst remaining on good terms with your employer.
As more women get promotions we will start to see more changes in our society, creating a more balanced share of leadership overall between men and women. So when you are negotiating a salary for yourself, it’s not just for you, you are putting your hand up for every other woman to create a better diversity balance.