By Gillian Fox 

Women and pay rises… the data says it all

For many people, asking for a pay rise is up there with the most awkward conversations to have with your manager. According to Mary Wooldridge, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), research states that women are just as likely to ask for a pay rise but are less likely to receive one than men.

And while Australia’s gender pay gap has been in decline, the bad news is that a significant disparity remains between men and women’s earnings. The gap is currently hovering around 14.1 per cent, based on the figures released on 29 August 2022 by WGEA, and is particularly pronounced at senior management levels.

If you don’t ask, you won’t receive

Meta COO, Sheryl Sandberg puts much of the onus on women to pursue workforce equality for themselves in her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. While some have criticised her stance, I would argue that this perspective can be highly empowering. There’s no doubt that much remains to be done at the organisational level to correct the disparity – starting with routine pay equity audits. But, it’s empowering to think that women can have a significant impact on their remuneration by knowing when and how to ask for a pay rise.

When it comes to a pay rise, you get nothing for nothing

For some, it isn’t the awkwardness of the conversation itself that deters them from asking for a pay rise. It’s more a case of not knowing how to go about it. A participant in one of my leadership workshops, Karina, a financial services executive, put it succinctly by saying that her problem wasn’t asking for the increase, but rather not knowing how to ask to ensure a positive outcome.

To that, I say, it’s important to start with a clear reason why you should be paid more. Time and tenure will never cut it today. To even raise that as a reason is naïve and positions you as out of touch with business realities. Rather, you need to present a compelling case as to why you’re worth it.

For example, you may have taken on a considerable new responsibility that was not in your original job description, such as an additional leadership role. In this situation, have the pay rise conversation as soon as possible. The longer you perform these extra duties without recognition, the more likely that they will simply become expected of you.

Start with a compelling business case

You don’t need to be a hard-nosed negotiator with the brash confidence of Jerry Maguire to close the deal. I liken the process of asking for a pay rise to presenting a business case. It’s not personal, and as such, it frees us up to present the business facts and build an argument. Think about ways that you’ve saved the company money or helped them generate new revenue. One thing that senior decision makers see clearly is a dollars and cents rationale.

Preparation is key

Be selective in the time of the meeting and location to ensure you’ll feel your most calm and confident. If you think it will help, rehearse your responses to the questions you anticipate, as you would for a job interview. Identify specific examples of key achievements over the year, how they have contributed to your company’s success, and the qualities you have that will serve the firm in the future.

Make asking for a pay rise an annual event

Finally, after receiving a pay rise, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. Make a point of assessing your responsibilities and performance at least once a year, analysing whether your pay is truly in-step with your industry, and the contribution you are making.

Download my free guide ‘How to ask for a raise’

Access my FREE GUIDE to preparing for a salary negotiation; including tracking your successes, having the conversation, and what to do if things go pear-shaped. It’s full of great tips, tools, and a little challenge that will ensure your contribution to the business is recognised and, most importantly, appropriately remunerated.

If you feel you need more inspiration before asking for pay rise, you can also take a listen to Episode 14 of the Your Brilliant Career podcast.