Sisters should ask for pay rises themselves
Twenty years I’ve been in the workforce. That’s 20 years of deadlines, jumping on planes, working late into the night and, ultimately, furthering the fortunes of companies and proprietors who are decent enough – sorry, lucky enough – to have me.
During those two decades, how many times do you reckon I’ve asked for a pay rise? Most years? Biannually? Nope. Just once.
Not a savvy thing to admit, but a quick ask around friends and colleagues reveals the same: Women don’t ask for pay rises.
Each year, figures illuminating the gender pay gap are trotted out (last year, it topped 18 per cent, the highest since 1994) and the government valiantly reacts with strategies such as the Fair Work Act to put an end to discrimination.
But how can we expect to earn parity with men if we don’t ask? We can flick our freshly shampooed hair and claim ‘we’re worth it’, but unless we get our Manolos down mahogany row and pitch for a raise, then more fool us.
The one time I did ask was after reading an interview with a highly respected retiring editor, in which he pointed out that not once had a woman come to him requesting a pay rise. Men, on the other hand, asked all the time – on the golf course, at the pub, on the sub-editor’s bench after he’d guffawed over a particularly witty headline and even, he revealed, at the urinal.
Fired by indignation, I asked to see my boss, which was cheek in itself considering this indomitable Fleet Street editor only communicated with young staff exclusively through written warnings and herograms.
“What do you want to see him about?” asked his PA. I told her it was a private matter, because – and this is daft – I didn’t want her to think I was full of myself.
Rocking up to the meeting in my best ‘take me seriously’ suit, I rattled off my spiel. As the heat crept up my neck, he interrupted: “I’ll give you a pay rise, Mollard. And thank you for your efforts.” And that was it. Ask. Get.
So why, when the worst possible outcome is a no, do so few of us demand more? Why do we tell a boss, “It’s not about the money,” when, quite frankly, it should be? And this one: “Pay me what you think I’m worth,” which is tantamount to saying, “I have no self-worth.”
Women have long complained about the glass ceiling, but we’re equally compromised by the sticky floor. As a CEO friend told me, “Men often see themselves in their next role a year before they’re ready, while women leave it a year too late. Ditto, their pay cheques.”
Witness the hoopla recently when Larry Emdur negotiated himself a reported $800,000 deal with the Seven Network. Immediately, his female colleagues were said to be upset. But Mel, Nat and Kylie are smart chicks – I’m betting they’ll use this as leverage.
What’s heartening is that Gen-Yers seem to exhibit none of this ridiculous self-limiting behaviour. They’ve barely graduated off the coffee round before they’re angling to be the boss. As one ingénue told my magazine editor friend, “I didn’t spend six years at high school so I could do photocopying.”
Another friend runs a PR company and recently headhunted a promising junior. After a successful interview, she emailed the would-be recruit with a job offer and a generous $20,000 pay rise. A day later, she received a response: “Double the salary, make me associate director and I’ll come.”
Audacious? Yes. Successful? Not this time.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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