Don’t Worry About the Gender Pay Gap – pff It’s only a Statistic!

I enjoyed International Women’s Day 2020.

Well …. sort of, my enjoyment was more than a little tainted by a personal discomfort that has been bothering me for weeks.

Recently, I was catching up with old friends. Friends I am open and frank with and was pleased to see. I was sharing my thoughts and personal feelings on the gender pay gap. On reflection, I was actually sharing my personal frustration and even pain. For example the time I needed help in a role and hired a man reporting to me with less experience. He was awesome I really enjoyed what he brought to the team. However, I did not set or negotiate his salary, it was government and set by a central team. They put him on 8% more than me.

My friend I was sharing this and other examples with said something that floored me. He said: 

“pff it’s only a statistic!”

I didn’t know what to say, uncharacteristically I got a little glassy-eyed and emotional. The conversation moved to other issues. But this keeps coming back to me since then.

“It’s only a statistic” … as I’m driving … showering … “It’s only a statistic”

I think that perhaps he was trying to be supportive. Something along the lines of “you are strong and tough and skilled and don’t need to be held back by statistical odds, or glass ceilings. You, my dear-old-friend can smash them all”.

If that was the case, the sentiment is nice.

But, and it is a big but – now I feel that not only am I a classic gender pay gap statistic but that somehow it is my fault. I did not try hard enough. If I was really that amazing and competent – I would be the exception-that-makes-the-rule. No exceptions here, just little old me and my financial challenges as a single parent with two mortgages earning less than my male counterparts for the last 20+ years.

Of course, as a single parent, there are many more statistics out to get me, like increased risk of poor health outcomes, poverty and death and stuff. Or should I not worry because these too are “just statistics”. Surely I am better than them? Somehow more worthy than those other single parents falling victim to these statistics? No of course not.

Part 4 of 4. How to negotiate like you: for your lifestyle.

So women (and men supporting women to close the gender pay gap), here’s hoping you followed the learnings from men in step one who are more likely than women to negotiate in the first plate.  That you’re prepared as discussed in step two, knowing the market and your value.  You are also channeling others – because you know that women do better at negotiating on behalf of others (than themselves) – as discussed in step three.

Now what about custom fitting your pay/benefits negotiations to your exact life style and needs.

Understand your negotiables.

Is salary the only thing that is valuable to you?

Know how much you would value, both financially and emotionally;

  • A vehicle supplied
  • Parking
  • Longer leave
  • Shorter hours
  • Flexible working
  • Benefits like health insurance, gym memberships etc. etc.

Know exactly what negotiables you would be prepared to sacrifice salary for and know exactly how much.  Remember to keep these cards close to your chest for now.  Just because you ‘would’ or ‘could’ sacrifice dollars does not mean you ‘should’.

Get a pen and paper or better a spreadsheet and really dig into the details relevant to you.  What is the actual cost of getting to work on Wednesday if you were to work from home.  If you save $2,000 per year of after school care and $1,000 of mileage on your vehicle, plus you would love not punching the traffic one day a week, then this might have value financial and emotional to you.  

As well as doing your homework on the numbers and what you value for your lifestyle – good negotiators consider the other side.  How much money you need is not a useful chip in negotiations.  How much the employer can or is willing to pay is what matters.  Things like your cost of living (rent school fees etc ) are only relevant in terms of understanding your bottom line, it has no relevance to their budgets or what they see the role is worth.

Conversely it is also important to understand the costs to them of any of the things you are hoping for.  If your needs costs them nothing, or better save them (extra desk space, parking unused etc.) you should not necessarily sacrifice anything.  A successful negotiation is when everyone is happy.  If you can get something you value that cost your employer nothing that’s a win all round.   

Play the long game

Links and all that Jazz

This is part of a larger series; here are the parts

Photo edited by Rosie Percy photo by Jens Johnsson from Pexels

Part 3 of 4 How To Negotiate Like a Women: Think of others!

This series opened with pretty dismal data on the gender pay gap and how women often don’t even enter the game i.e. they don’t even enter ‘the arena’ and attempt to negotiate pay and conditions of employment.
I have some very good news today and it is this -> women outperform men in “representational negotiations”.i.e. negotiating for someone else.
What am I talking about I hear you ask, let me tell you ….
All genders tend to negotiate to a “threshold of social backlash”.  This ‘threshold’ is the point when we feel if we push harder it might damage our reputation or relationships, or whatever social capital we hold dear.
When negotiating for our own pay and conditions – women reach this threshold well before men, as shown on the left in the graph below.
But wait there is more …
When negotiating on behalf of others aka ‘representational negotiations’ men reach this threshold before we do.  That is to say women stay in the arena longer we push harder, we do better in than men when we are negotiating not for ourselves but for others.
I am not sure why this is so exactly, the last group of women I spoke to on the topic told me that it is because women are nicer than men.  I laughed, sorry men, however it is probably not that black and white.  Let’s save that topic for a later post.
For now I want to talk about how women can use this information to help them when negotiating.  Of the course challenge here is when you are negotiate for yourself it is hard to use this information – you can hardly bring your mum or BFF to negotiate for you, can you?
However maybe you can play a little game and pretend you are negotiating for YOUR mother or BFF, what might you do differently?
Also for the many whose negotiations are still collective, perhaps you might want to ensure your representative is a women.
Food for thought.  Take care and see you next time.
Claire Lichtwark McInnes
Aka The Barefoot Consultant

Links and all that Jazz

The threshold (to the left of the graph) is shown in dollars for the scenario covered in the research, the comparison is what matters here.
This is part of a larger series; here are the parts

Article from: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2010.
Photo by from Pexels

Part 2 of 4. How to Negotiate Like a Scout: Be Prepared!


When Robert Barden-Powell, the founder of Scouts was asked the question,

“Prepared for what?”

he replied, “Why, for any old thing,”  

Successful pay negotiations is a perfect time to be like Barden-Powell and be prepared for anything.

Preparedness begins with thoroughly and as objectively as possible doing your research.

Know what you are worth.

Know the market value of your skills.  What do others in your field earn? What do their competitors pay?  How many people with your skills are available in the current market? 

Not sure where to find this information? Here are are few places to start:

  • Look at local job sites (trick to try – change the dollar value in the search criteria and seeing when jobs like yours appear and disappear), 
  • Ask recruitment consultants specialising in your industry or profession, 
  • Look to the guides published regularly by the big recruitment brands e.g Hays, or Hudson,
  • Look to government statistics like these ones
  • Ask friends in the industry. 

Also consider other factors that might influence pay e.g. is the organisation not-for-profit or government? If so, how might this influence expectations?

Now, get specific and see what you can understand about exactly how your skills might add to the organisation’s bottom line. Then get even more specific and research what challenges or current benefits are affecting the organisation and their market.

Know what you are entitled to

Understand your legal entitlements.  Avoid being seduced by false offers, especially if you are new to a country or state.  We have heard of candidates being ‘sold’ basic legal entitlements as if there were bonuses e.g. four weeks annual leave or matching your retirement savings up to 3% of your salary (these are New Zealand based examples).  

Be clear on your own bottom line

What are your top and bottom figures/conditions?  Remember top figure is what you would ideally like and the bottom figure is the point at which you will walk away from the negotiation.

If you are not prepared to walk away, it is not your bottom line.

Back up your expectations with reasons.

Be prepared to share your research information and its sources.

To be able to say, 

“I believe the position is worth $X as it involves similar skills, attributes and level of experience to X position as currently assessed by X  organisation” 

is likely to be more persuasive than, 

“I believe I am worth $X”

In sum

Be like a Scout.

Show up to negotiations as prepared as you would for a mountain trek, albeit with slightly different provisions i.e. don’t bring a thermos of tea to the negotiations, even if you expect them to be long and cold.

Good luck out there in the wilderness of pay and conditions negotiations.

See you next time,

Claire (aka The Barefoot Consultant)

Links and all that Jazz

This is part of a larger series; here are the parts

Photo credit


Part 1of 4: How to negotiate like a man: Just do it!

I knew that opening might ruffle some feathers.

It is a tad sexist.

Unfortunately, the reality is, #MenDoItBetter when it comes to wage negotiations.

A recent USA study shows that only 7% of women attempt to negotiate pay and conditions compared to 57% of men.  Local studies show more NZ women negotiate but local men get better results.

This is only one factor in why the male-female wage gap is unacceptably high.  But, it is a factor that women can influence! 

The 2018  male-female wages gap was  9.2 %.  Do not despair, some progress has been made.  In 1988 the difference was much higher.  When I started work in 1970 it was considered acceptable that women were paid half a ‘man’s wage’ and it wasn’t even questioned.

Maybe 9.2% doesn’t sound too bad on your starting salary out of study.  Stop!  Let’s look at that long term.  If Jane is on $30 per hour then John is on $ 32.80.  Did I hear you say $2.80 who cares?  But John gets $5,740 per year more, that is not so trivial.  In ten years he will have earned $50,000 more than Jane and that is only if he doesn’t get higher annual increases.  Unfortunately, the data tells us, this is not likely to happen.

Add this to the fact that if  Jane works hard and moves up to the higher income brackets then John will be 20% ahead of her, as the gap is even wider in more senior positions. 

Despite what we have discussed above in turns our 80% of the reasons for the gender pay gap are unexplained. 

What this means is we cannot immediately fix everything.  But we can and should improve the things we do know.  The other impacts are likely to become clearer over time.  

For now.

Let’s just do this: Let’s start negotiating!

To follow in this series will be discussing;

See you there.

Claire Lichtwark McInnes

The Barefoot Recruiter

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels