Career Woman

What are you worth?

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I am not trying to reduce any woman to a dollar figure, or encouraging us to care more about money than the value we add. Rather it is about ensuring that the work women are doing is valued appropriately and fairly, especially in a world where women are consistently paid less than men in the same roles, doing the same work.

Recently actors of Big Bang Theory took pay decreases so that their female colleagues would be given a raise, in other words, a fair wage. Is that what it comes down to? Others must make less for us to make more? Surely the television network makes enough money to be able to pay everyone on their show a fair wage? Even so, most of us do not have a male team willing to make less money so that we can make more! Which means we must take care of ourselves. And how do we do that?

What do you currently make? Now multiply it by 1.2

In Europe and Australia, professional women are still consistently paid 16% less than professional men, in the US it reaches up to 22% and globally it remains a solid 17%. Do you know what your role is worth on the job market? What is the value of the work you do every day? What is your work experience worth? Do you achieve results? Do you meet your targets?

How can you calculate an accurate figure for a fair wage?

This is not the time to pull a figure out of the air, or to ask for ridiculous increases – it is the time to do the research. Unless we’ve done the research, done comparisons or even spoken to a recruiting expert, we cannot accurately estimate a fair wage for our roles. Until then, we will continue to accept the raises we are handed, undermine our own successes, and expect less than a man in the same position.

How do I know? Because my hand was forced when I was expected to accept a raise at 32 years old, that was less than I got at McDonalds when I was 17 years old. I was working for the capital markets arm of a big bank so I knew they could afford to pay me a fair wage. So after this offer, I went home and I did the research. I calculated the numbers. I walked into the office the next day armed to the teeth with knowledge. I demanded that they reconsider and pay me what I was worth. It worked.

At that time I was reactive, but now I strive to be proactive and arm myself with the research and knowledge in advance of those difficult pay discussions.

Three steps to determine what you are worth

By following the three steps below, you walk into your manager’s office and discuss my pay increase in a logical and straightforward manner with proof points for every argument against a potential raise.

1. Find out what your role is worth on the open market, what are jobs like yours being advertised for?

You can do this by scouring the job ads or by contacting a headhunter in your field to find out what the role is worth. Remember to consider years of experience, role hierarchy, size of the company, and geographical location (city vs. small town can have an impact on market rates.)

2. Find out what colleagues in the same role are making at your company, male and female, and why?

The spread and caps for roles are often common knowledge, as are the pay raise rules. You can also check online sources such as Glass Door and Pay Scale for a comparable.

3. Review up to three years of your past performance appraisals, were you successful according to your measurable?

You can sometimes get into the trap of wanting raises every year without actually meeting deliverables, and of course this is never going to work. So review your comments, your deliverables, your success factors or KPIs and ensure there is proof of your accomplishments and the work you have done to deserve the raise.

Counter arguments for the usual excuses

The excuses for not giving a raise can vary. I’ve had managers say “this is not how the company determines pay raises”, “this is not fair to other workers”, “this is not appropriate for your level of experience”, and so on. However, having done my homework I can look them in the eye and counter every one of those arguments. “I know the company determines wage increases on appraisals, mine have exceeded expectations for three years straight.” “Not paying me a fair wage by industry standards is not acceptable.” “I know that my level of experience is worth [enter figure here] on the open job market, I am only asking for a competitive salary.” You will be able to do the same.

Does this work every time?

No, of course not. You cannot account for conscious and unconscious bias in leadership teams, and you cannot always know all the economic factors the firm is facing. Best-case scenario — you get the raise. Worst-case scenario — you don’t.

But the important thing is — you asked

You knew what you were worth. By confronting this discussion with facts, you made it a fair wage discussion and not a woman vs. man discussion. You didn’t accept the status quo. You had the confidence to take deliberate action.

And best thing about this? Now they know, that you know

They know that if they do not step up and pay you what you are worth in the future, they may risk losing you to a competitor, and this is more than just quantitative impact – it can cost companies upwards of 1.5x – 3x your professional salary to replace you – but also qualitative impact – risk to engagement, productivity, morale issues. It is cost prohibitive for them to pay you what you are worth!

Do the homework

It is in your and your company’s best interests for you to feel valued at your workplace. So get up tomorrow morning, and do the groundwork to figure out what you are worth. Then when the next opportunity to receive a pay raise comes up, you know exactly how to tackle the situation.

And it definitely beats just standing around the water cooler complaining about how unfair it is!

About Raj Hayer

Raj Hayer is a Leader. Advisor. Nomad. Raj is a management professional with over 25 years of experience. She is currently a consultant for innovation and change management initiatives holding a Global Executive MBA, an MBA, and Bachelor of Commerce, as well as project management (PMP) and motivational analyst (MSA) certifications. She facilitates workshops through Mayfly, a company focused on leadership development, committed to improving corporate culture and increasing employee engagement. Raj believes that every individual wants to add value through their work and life, and this is what motivates her to mentor and coach individuals. Her passion is in building networks, building community, and ultimately helping others succeed.

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