Research released this week by Cass Business School and the Universities of Warwick and Wisconsin challenged the theory that women are backward in coming forward when it comes to asking for pay rises. It identified evidence that women do ask for pay rises but are less successful at securing increases.

So which is it? Do we not ask? Or do we not get?

From the many many women I work with in personal development training, I have to say I generally find there is a lack of confidence in asking for pay rises, or going for promotions. I also hear women describing experiences where even if they have sought a pay rise, the approach that they took was not effective. I recently met with a senior manager, who told me how she approached her manager with a well thought out and substantiated rationale for asking for a salary increase. However, at the end of the conversation (which was going well) she then blurted out ‘but it’s ok if I don’t get it, it won’t make a difference to me doing the job’.

In addition to presenting a solid business case for a salary increase, women need to work on some essential personal skills in order to be better equipped to enter into pay negotiations:

  • Self-worth – if you are not convinced of your own self worth (and many women I work with,even at senior levels, are not) then you won’t be able to convince any one else either. That lack of self belief will be visible. Take time to recognise and evaluate your skills, strengths and experience. List and reflect on your successes. Remind yourself of the challenges you have successfully overcome. Be clear about the unique value you add to your organisation and to your role. Work on these aspects until you have silenced the critical voice inside you saying ‘you don’t really deserve it, you’re not good enough’.
  • Assertive communications – many women struggle with appropriate use of assertiveness. They may inadvertently pitch their communication style at the wrong ends of the assertiveness spectrum, ending up somewhere towards either apologetic or threatening. Work on your assertiveness skills, practice putting forward your business case for negotiating a pay increase in a calm and confident manner.
  • Promoting yourself positively – women often tend to be modest and downplay their achievements. When complimented on their success, often women will respond by deflecting or dismissing the comment e.g. ‘ oh it was nothing really’, ‘I was just lucky’, ‘it was the team who did it’, ‘it was no problem’. You have to make your success visible to others and don’t expect it just to be obvious because you work hard and perform well. If you don’t promote yourself positively, then I am positive you won’t be promoted!So let me know whether you don’t ask, or don’t get, and especially tell us if you have asked and did get the pay increase you sought!