If we are to close the workplace gender gap, women need to take the initiative and negotiate for better remuneration. Here’s how

Despite the strides that have been made in achieving greater equality in the workplace, one issue still stubbornly refuses to go away: the gender pay gap.

‘Women are often not as ambitious in what they ask for and we tend to undervalue our worth’

According to the Office for National Statistics, men get paid 14.2 per cent more than women, on average. Men in full time work earn £16.77 per hour, excluding overtime, compared with £14.39 per hour for women.

The problem is not just one for those women becoming mothers, as the pay gap cynics suggest – it exists at each end of the workplace age spectrum, with female apprentices earning on average 21 per cent less than their male counterparts.

The gap is also widening for older women. Those aged over 40 earn 35 per cent less, and over-60s earn 38 per cent less. 

The right to equal pay was enshrined in 1970 with the Equal Pay Act, but clearly this isn’t making a big enough impact. So what can women do to try and level the playing field on pay?

1. Just ask…

Bosses aren’t mind readers. Just ask. But do it in the right way and be prepared if they say no. Research tells us that women are less likely to negotiate in the first place, so it’s essential that we speak up and ask for what we deserve.

2. …and be ambitious when you do

In other words, open negotiation with more than your target figure. Women are often not as ambitious in what they ask for and we tend to undervalue our worth. So think of an opening figure, then add 10-15 per cent. This gives you wriggle room to explore just what they might be willing to give.

3. Imagine you are asking on behalf of others

Research shows that women are more confident at negotiating for others. Next time you negotiate for yourself, remind yourself of all the people who would benefit on your behalf, whether that’s your family or your friends.

4. Know the facts

Find out what the baseline salary is for your job and what people get paid at other companies. But also ask other people in your office. Then put together a business case for yourself, as you would to win a project.

5. Have a target in mind

Ask yourself what a good outcome would be. Base it on an ambitious assessment of your research and what you are worth. You should also establish your walk-away point. Work out the lowest you would accept and then stick to it. In the heat of a negotiation, we often agree to things we wouldn’t normally if we were feeling calmer and more confident.

6. Be flexible, plan alternatives

Don’t make the mistake of planning your opening proposal and then nothing else. You should plan lots of alternative proposals in advance. This will give you a basic route map to get to the desired result. It will allow you to say, “Okay, if that doesn’t work for you, what about this?”

Natalie Reynolds is founder and CEO of global negotiation training company advantageSPRING. Her book, We Have a Deal, is published by Icon Books.