Lauren is a litigation solicitor based in Sydney. She is passionate about advocating for women and worker’s rights. She ran a blog called Lawyer Lauren at the time of publishing, which no longer exists.
When she’s not arguing, writing or trying to stay awake in meetings, she cooks, surfs and tries to manage her comedy club and yoga addiction.
Pay gaps, sexism and gender inequality make up some of the hottest topics on the corporate playground at the moment. It’s generally agreed that the cards are stacked against women when it comes to pay. It’s generally agreed that society and organisational culture continues to slam the door in the face of the career progression for many women. However, we’re often so hung up contrasting salaries and bonuses with Mr Desk-Next-Door, that we rarely take the time to assess what equal pay even is, and whether that’s actually what we want.
I often hear women reeling about how their male colleagues being paid substantially more than they are. However, when I push for numbers, very few women can actually give me any figures. I’ll ask, what do you think you should be paid? And they’ll look bashful, and mutter something about being paid the same as their male colleagues.
Reading between the lines, most women don’t have a clue what they should be paid, because they’ve never taken the time to evaluate what their skill set is actually worth. If you haven’t researched the market, or thought about what numerical value your skills bring to your industry, then chances are you’ll have no choice but to accept any old average number your employer slaps on the table. Simply because you are without any rebuttable to negotiate otherwise.
Equal pay implies that women should be paid the same as men. Full stop. The end. It sounds great, but this egalitarian concept is too generic and unrefined to be realistically applied in practice. To say that all men and women should receive the same sized slice of pie, regardless of their experience, skills, ambition, ability and achievements within their industry is misguided. A one-size-fits-all approach is not what we really want.
Yes, we can say we’re disadvantaged by organisational culture. Yes, we can say we’re hindered by sexism. Yes, can say our society needs to move towards great empowerment of women. But we as individuals can take matters into our own hands. I believe part of the solution to closing the ‘gender pay gap’ is to:
- Stop focusing on what men are earning; and
- Start focusing on being paid what you’re worth.
We all know the statistics of men earning more. It’s raw and it’s real, but you don’t have to become a statistic. Nobody will ever pay you what you’re worth, they will only ever pay you what they think you’re worth. Therefore, it’s within your control to influence their thinking to ensure it matches your ideals.
I don’t believe in equality when it comes to pay. Simply because equal does not mean fair. Regardless of gender, if you’re a driven and enthusiastic performer at work, you want to be recognised for your achievements and results. Why should you be paid the same as the lazy sod who rocks at 9.10 am every morning and is more concerned about a Facebook feed than owning the day? Fair is the concept that really matters. Get rid of gender. An individual assessment of merit is what we should be pushing for.
Compacting your skills and experience into an annual numerical figure is not an easy task. In fact, it can pose more questions than answers. Women are naturally far more modest than men, but sadly, humility doesn’t pay dollars in performance reviews or job interviews. So it’s easier to beat our drum to the tune of being paid the same as men. Market rates are just a guide. You may be worth more, but if you’re not sure, how can you expect your employer to be?
I’m not suggesting that men are busy drawing up excel spreadsheets, analysing data or ferociously researching the job market to investigate the numerical worth of their skill set. However, men tend to have a natural assertiveness and confidence that serves them well when it comes to negotiating salaries. They simply state their desired salary and benefits as facts not questions, they don’t ask permission to be paid more.
Being paid the same as everyone else, sets the bar pretty low, and isn’t really a solution to the years of misogynistic oppression women have endured, and continue to fight against. Yes you’re worth more, but it’s a case of advocating for yourself. Nobody will do it for you.
Call to action:
- Don’t ask, insist – if you’re not assertive in your performance review and insist on having a salary rise that meets your expectations, then you’re accepting less. You choose your salary based on your response and your ability to negotiate.
- Prepare your case and know your worth – if you can go into any interview, performance review or salary negotiation meeting with confidence; knowing what your value’s worth, how your skills are maximising results for the company and it’s clients and how you’re exceeding expectation, you haven’t asked for a raise, you’ve proven you deserve one.
- Stop comparing your salary to your neighbour’s – their salary depends on a number of variables you are unlikely to be privy to. Focus on the value of your package and how you can present your worth based on what you bring to the table.
Equal pay will not balance the scales. We want fair pay. Let’s take gender out of the equation and demand to be assessed on the value of our skills, achievements, experience, knowledge and individual merit. Because that’s not equal, that’s fair.
Recommended read to help with your call to action: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, by Lois P. Frankel. Get it here.
Got a question or a hot topic? I’d love to hear from you.
Tweet me @lvalawyer
Add me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurenvanarendonk/