For many women the thought of negotiating a salary increase is so unappealing they would rather accept less money than put their hand up for more.
But experts say it is one area where women could do better to help reduce the salary gulf between genders. Latest Statistics New Zealand figures show that overall Kiwi women earn 13% less than Kiwi men.
Sarah Wilshaw-Sparkes, co-founder of the Professionelle Charitable Foundation, says New Zealand research indicates the difference between a man and a women’s earnings can appear within 5 years of leaving university.
For many women this is well before they start thinking about having a family – a reason often given to explain the pay divide.
“I don’t think employers set out to discriminate,” she says.
“A woman does need to take action for herself. We have to be careful not to overgeneralise, but sometimes women are waiting for their career Prince Charming to come along. They need to be able to put their hand up and say `this is my hard work and it deserves to be rewarded’.”
However, many women worry that their negotiating will be perceived as aggressive.
“It is a riskier proposition for a woman who can be seen as greedy and demanding while a male colleague would be considered assertive and confident.”
And she adds that studies show women are actually very good at negotiating when they are working on someone else’s behalf.
When’s the right time to negotiate?
Research by New Zealand's National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women found female students would rather secure a position first and then negotiate pay after some time in the job, or when they applied for their next job having gained more experience.
But Sarah says it is the responsibility of both employers and staff to ensure pay negotiations are fair, and the best time to ask for more money is when accepting a job offer.
“If you start on the back foot, it’s really hard to catch up. The stakes are high at the beginning but that’s the time to put on your big-girl pants,” she says.
“Be aware that it is not always a level playing field and recognise those times where it is worth going into bat for yourself.”
Negotiating the right way
So how exactly do you ask for more money without attracting the negative labels?
Penni Hlaca, Randstad recruitment agency's general manager in Christchurch, says the worst thing a woman can do during a salary negotiation is to mention gender.
“Do it on merit over gender. If you walk into a salary negotiation saying, ‘I am a woman I deserve to be paid more,’ that’s not the right way to do it,” she says.
Instead, clearly communicate your achievements and confidently describe those situations where you’ve gone above and beyond.
Researching where the company is at, and how it’s performing financially, is also important.
“If a company is forecasting short on budgets then that’s not really a good time to ask for a bit more,” she says.
For more tips on successful negotiating, see:
- Professionelle’s website
- The National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women’s (NACEW) website
- This YouTube clip with Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business: