A few months ago, I won a pitch to work on an exciting new project. As a freelancer, that feeling of excitement never gets old. We were yet to negotiate costs, but the company was a start-up and I wanted the opportunity to work with them, so I significantly reduced my fee and sent over my proposal. Days went by, emails went back and forth, and my fee hadn’t been mentioned at all.
“Perhaps I’ll just email about the fee and ask if it was okay,” I said to my brother. “Absolutely not, why on earth would you do that?” he laughed. “You just say ‘I trust you received the fee’ and move forward.”
It reminded me of a male boss I’d worked with whose daily mantra was to ‘take the emotion out’. ‘It’s just business’, he’d say. But here I was, worried that my fee was too high, whether the client could afford it and if it would impact their budget and strategy. Of course, it turned out to be fine and the project went ahead.
The data and studies are in plain sight – men are paid significantly more than women in most UK businesses. But is it because we’re too shy to ask?
A study by CV-Library earlier this year found that two out of three men would be comfortable asking for higher pay from their employer, compared to just two in five women, who were more concerned about negotiating working hours. Understandable, of course. But more than half of the women surveyed (55%) expressed they had never negotiated their salary, compared to one in four men (40%) who had.
And perhaps most concerning of all, is that the survey found when both genders ask for more money, men are more likely to receive a higher pay rise compared with women.
The strive for equal pay and the narrowing of the gender pay gap will not happen overnight. We’re challenging a lifetime of habits and mindsets. We’re still talking about Imposter Syndrome and learning being a boss in the workplace doesn’t make you ‘bossy’, or that being assertive doesn’t make you a ‘bitch’. We’re still trying to prove that we work just as hard – if not harder – than men, all while juggling families and school pick-ups.
But maybe, just maybe – we can all have a little more confidence when asking for money, whatever it‘s for. I know I’m going to follow the lead and narrative of my male relatives and mentors and have faith that I’m worth every penny I ask for – and more.
5 top tips on how to ask for a pay rise at work
1. “Make an appointment to chat with your boss,” says money coach Claire Sweet. “Send them an email explaining that you want to meet to discuss your remuneration package so that they don’t feel cornered or under pressure. Keep the tone of the email calm and neutral and just let them know that you’d like to chat more – and then get a date in the diary to do it – face to face – never by email.”
2. “Do your research. What do other people doing your job earn? Look on recruitment sites like Indeed.com or use Google to find typical salaries. Use this as a starting point and then look to demonstrate examples of why you are better than average – business you’ve generated for the company, money that you’ve saved them. Talk about the impact that you’ve had on the business – tell them that you love working with them but feel that you’re now worth more!”
3. “Use paperwork to back up your case – examples of projects or reports that demonstrate your worth.”
4. “Don’t be greedy – pick a realistic figure, but ask that you can have another review in 6–12 months’ time.”
5. “Be confident, don’t mumble or fidget – stand (or sit) up straight and know what you want to say – and don’t threaten to leave unless you mean it!”
Claire Sweet is an award-winning financial advisor and money coach for women. She runs Peace Together alongside a free, inclusive Facebook group with weekly tips, challenges and advice. Find out more, here.