We Don’t Want Equal Pay, We Want Fair Pay (Guest Post)

Lauren is a litigation solicitor based in Sydney. She is passionate about advocating for women and worker’s rights. She runs a blog at http://lawyerlauren.com.

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.

We want fair pay

A protest event.

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:

  1. Stop focusing on what men are earning; and
  2. 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? Continue reading