Rising Tide Blog

How to ask for a pay rise

Posted by Matt Hale

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Patricia Arquette’s speech at The Oscars got us thinking at the Rising Tide office.  When it comes to the gender pay gap, the entertainment industry is no different from every other industry.  It continues to be a major issue here in Australia with the national gender pay gap currently sitting at 17.1%.  Having hovered between 15% and 18% for the past two decades, it’s clear that the situation is not improving.

Experts have weighed in over the years on why such a vast pay gap continues to exist.  Things like a lack of flexible senior roles, the fact that women often gravitate to industries associated with a lower wage, child care responsibilities and of course, flat out discrimination all play a part. But today I want to focus on one particular factor that contributes to the gender pay gap.  A factor that I believe women can take control of.  It’s this:

Women don’t ask.

Contrary to their male counterparts, female employees are weary of asking for a pay rise or negotiating on their salary.  I firmly believe that this needs to change.  Negotiation is the cornerstone of all things finance and a vital part of ensuring you get the best deal for you. Whether it’s finding the best value insurance deal, the best value super fund or the best value home loan, these things all require negotiation and your salary shouldn’t be any different.

In 2003, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever published a book titled, ‘Women Don’t Ask’.  The book explores the difference between men and women in their propensity to negotiate for what they want.  Most interestingly, the book shows that ‘failing to ask’ is not innate to women but a behaviour society teaches girls and reinforces when they’re adults.

This issue has also been addressed recently via the #banbossy campaign backed by Sheryl Sandberg (CEO of Facebook and Co-Founder of LeanIn.org) and other big names like Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch and Diane Von Furstenburg.  The campaign asserts that girls are encouraged from a young age to stay quiet while boys are applauded and encouraged for sharing their opinions. “When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading.

When a little boy asserts himself, he is called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders,” Rachel Thomas, Co-Founder of LeanIn.org.

My message to women everywhere is this.  You need to ask.  Even if it feels a bit uncomfortable or it makes you feel nervous at the end of the day if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  There is a way to go about it though.  After years of negotiation experience, here are my top 5 tips for how to get the pay rise you deserve:

  1. Book a specific appointment with your employer ahead of time and practice your conversation before you go in.  It’s also a good idea to give your employer a heads up on what you want to chat to them about by putting ‘salary discussion’ in the subject line or prefacing it in an email.
  2. Know the market rates for your industry and don’t be afraid to draw on them in your discussion.
  3. Never take no for an answer.  If your employer does say ‘no’, make sure you turn it in to a ‘not just now’ by asking them to commit to another review meeting in 3-6 months time.  Say something like, “This is going to be pretty important for me going forward so can we book another meeting in 6 months time to discuss again?  Also, is there anything I can do between now and then to turn your answer in to a yes?” Work with your employer to set specific goals attached to financial rewards and hold them accountable.
  4. Be open to what the pay rise looks like.  Why not suggest working 4 days per week for the same pay?  You could use the extra day to focus on your real passion or work on a business idea of your own.
  5. Just saying I’m worth it won’t cut it; but giving them the hard facts often does. So focus on the goals you’ve reached on behalf of the company and/or further study that you’ve completed which is relevant to the role. This proof could make all the difference.