Don’t let the wage gap call the shots on your career

Posted on July 12, 2019
By Catherine Heilemann

One of the most common issues The Salary Coach comes across in media and professional spheres is what do we do with the problem of the wage gap? Let’s get things straight- the wage gap does exist, and it is a significant problem in Australia and the rest of the world. You cannot blame it on women’s choices or child-rearing, as I will show in this article.

It’s systemic and problematic due to being so deeply ingrained.

But do I believe that we must wait for lawmakers or cultural change to be the saving grace of women everywhere? No, I do not.

Here are some of the facts and figures you need about the wage gap- and some pro tips from the Salary Coach to help you bridge the gap

Traditional employment and the wage gap

We have women and men doing the same work and not receiving equal pay.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) determined that the gender pay gap in 2017 was around 15.3%. It’s remained between 15% to 19% for the last two decades.

Your industry can influence just how big a gap you face. And it’s not always a case of it being traditionally male-dominated industries with the largest gap. Indeed, women in finance and insurance or real estate face double that of the national wage gap average. Meanwhile, women in mining and manufacture are squeaking below the national average at a 14% overall gap.

This is further proof that the commonly played cards of women’s lifestyle and parenting choices have no significant bearing on where the inequality lies.

The problem is not uniquely Australian. The USA has a wage gap of 80% that varies drastically between location and ethnicity. People of colour are paid much less than their white working counterparts.  The UK records an overall wage gap of 14% based on 2018 data.

We don’t have to accept this as the only answer we have. You can negotiate a better salary by asking the right questions and having the right approach.

Pro tips from the Salary Coach

  • Do your research on the market and compare your current wage with industry averages for the same sort of work. You can find a wealth of data in industry trend reports, places such as SEEK and other job portals, by looking at the salary ranges offered on comparable jobs – and by asking around!
  • Have a specific salary goal in mind- and have a Plan B to that Plan A. For example, you may be chasing a raise of 20% over your current salary. This might not be feasible in current conditions, but it sets a vital starting point for the conversation. You may find that a raise won’t be as high or cannot happen. Yet it doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate other working conditions
  • Don’t apologise or shrink from the conversation. While humility often gets us more places than hubris, confidence is another thing entirely. If you are well researched, know what you want and practise the ask, you’ll have a greater chance of success

Self-employed women have a wage problem too

This may sound like a problem only for women that choose the standard employment model. It isn’t.  Australian Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched a study in 2013 that found only 37% of Australian business women were paying themselves in self-employment. They were launching businesses on credit cards and personal loans. And often, paying the other people associated with their business before paying themselves at all.

In the UK, self-employed women are paid on average a third less per week than their male counterparts. Some of this can be accounted for in choosing traditionally low paid roles. Yet even here, it’s important to consider whether the role is low paying due to the nature of the work or the workers it usually attracts.

In the USA, the figures are even worse. Men average a pay of $54, 959. Women average a pay of $28,554. You could argue women often work less hours in self-employment- and they do. Yet the hourly rate also shows significant difference with men receiving $23.94 to women’s $15.94 on a fulltime wage. Men on a part-time workload earn $36.57 versus women on $17.63 per hour.

With self-employed women, there are a few inherently problematic assumptions and practises that lead to low wages.

There’s this gratitude for receiving the work that spills into devaluing its value at a fundamental level. Yes, self-employment may have given you greater flexibility, but that doesn’t mean everyone that hires you needs to get a cheap quote as a result. It’s a workplace that has given you greater control over work-life balance in relation to kids, study, physical health management, mental health management, the freedom to travel or your side hustle. There’s no need to discount the world because you are enjoying that flexibility.

Another tricky problem is that working out your rate includes a lot of guesswork. Sure, there are some great surveys out there measuring what certain freelance industries attract in terms of pay rates. But there is a fundamental problem with this in they often attract primarily women, the very people known for underpaying ourselves. So low paying women set the average potentially influence even more women to pay themselves lower still.

We’re also people pleasers by nature. Lacking the confidence to say no to clients bartering or asking for discounts means falling into low paying jobs. The myth of exposure and alleged opportunities coming from giving favours to clients can also injure your profitability.

You don’t have to be confrontational or egotistical to command a decent wage in self-employment. You do however need to know how much it costs you to do business, so you can say no to bad ideas. And you do need to have faith in your abilities when faced with a difficult client pitch.

Pro tips from the Salary Coach

  • Know your worth. Sure, you might be able to be there to pick up the kids or take the laptop to exotic places, but that has no bearing on the quality of your work or your dedication to the task at hand. Charge based on your level of experience and your capability, no apology.
  • Recognise the risk and the reward. Self-employment is a tough gig with a lot of risk. You operate as business development manager, project manager, creative artist, financial assistant, marketing manager and more. Super, saving and reinvesting in your talents are also your responsibility. Charge accordingly.
  • Be smarter about the data. Don’t rely on self-reported data from an industry with a pricing issue. Instead, work out what you need to earn each year, how many hours you work and set your target based on what you need.
  • Practise makes perfect. The more you understand your value in the market and assess your abilities and skills in a positive way, the better you will become at batting back unsatisfactory opportunities and/or negotiating with difficult clients.

When it comes to the wage gap, don’t despair

My individual career coaching service can help you identify your skills and uncover your value to any kind of employer or client. We can work together to help you research and better apply industry knowledge.

Whether you are looking to chase a salary negotiation, or you are looking to raise your freelance rates, I can help.

Contact me now for your free 20-minute discovery call and let’s chart your closure of your wage gap together.

Don’t let the wage gap call the shots on your career

Don’t let the wage gap call the shots on your career

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