Essential Tips For Getting That Pay Rise

As new laws to reveal gender salary difference come into force, w&h money expert Niki Chesworth asks five influential women for their tips on asking for a pay rise…

It’s nearly 50 years since female Ford machinists went on strike to get the same pay as men for work of equal value, in an action immortalised in the film Made in Dagenham.

Their campaign ultimately led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and yet, decades later, women in this country are still earning 80p for every £1 earned by men.

It’s not just high-profile women such as actress Jennifer Lawrence and tennis ace Serena Williams who notice that men get the bigger salaries – millions of us are missing out.

Employers with 250 or more employees will have to publish an annual report on the gender pay gap within their organisation. The legislation is being passed this month (1 October), although firms may not have to publish their pay gaps until 2018. Some firms are already being transparent and a few are even upping women’s pay as a result. Use the information – or it’s impending publication – to ask for change.

Sue Unerman is cheif strategy officer of advertising firm MediaCom and a council member of the Open University. She is co-author of a fantastic new book. The Glass Wall (Profile Books), with Kathryn Jacob (right)

Be ambitious. If a boss ask a senior woman how things are going, she will say: “All fine, all under control.” A male colleague would say: “It’s fine now because there was a huge crisis and I solved it.” No wonder women don’t get noticed. Your boss is not a mind reader so have to tell them about your achievements.

Use your anger. Research shows that angry men gain influence, but angry women lose influence. So learn to use your anger in a cold, calculating way. Instead of bursting into tears of frustration while you point out that the man who sits next to you earns way more, use the energy of that anger to come back with a strategy to get what you want. If they say no, try a different strategy.

Practise in the mirror. When I was embarassed about asking for a promotion, I practised. I wrote a script and took deep breaths in the ladies first. Also use evidence to support your statements. So, “I am the person that gets things done,” and then give an example.

Frances O’Grady is general secretary of the TUC – its first female leader

See secrecy as a warning. If you work for a firm where people are told not discuss pay, alarm bells should ring. Even if staff are on pay bands, men may be nearer to the top of that band than women.

Get together collectively. If you don’t have a union, get together with other women and make it about the issue, not you as individuals. Also get legal advice – it will give you confidence when negotiating to know the law is on your side.

Find men to support you. This is important if you want to prove your job is of equal value or you have been overlooked for promotions, which mean better pay. Sexual discrimination can be difficult to prove without knowing if men are getting tapped on shoulder for the best jobs.

Corinne Mills is managing director of Personal Career Management and author of the best-selling The Career Coach (Trotman)

Find out the going rate. Never go for a job unless you know what the pay is likely to be. Even if the ad says “salary negotiable”, they must have a budget in mind. So ask the recruitment firm or HR department, otherwise you’re in danger of underselling yourself. Most women want to avoid conflict so they’e likely to accept what they’re offered rather than negotiate. Look online for similar jobs to see what the going rate it.

Avoid negativity. Rather than saying “I’m overworked” and You don’t pay me enough”, tell your boss positive things: how committed you are; how you’re doing with a new project. Then add that you’ve not had a pay rise for two years. Don’t threaten to leave or say you have been approached by another firm.

Kathryn Jacob is CEO of Pearl & Dean, the cinema advertising company, a member of the Government Expert Group on Body Confidence and co-author of The Glass Wall.

Stop apologising. Women tend to feel apologetic when asking for a pay rise. They say things like, “Sorry, can I have five minutes,” and then they talk quickly to get it over and done with. So make an appointment at a quiet time, stop saying sorry – you have nothing to apologise for – and present a business case for why you desrve a pay rise. Be matter of fact. You can’t argue with the facts.

Get used to rejection. Men will ask ten women out in the hope that one will say yes. Whereas women will only ask a man out if 43 of their friends have written in blood that they like them. Remember, it does not matter if your boss says “No”. Simply ask what needs to change in the future for it to be a “Yes” and ask when you should come back again. And then in three or six months’ time, make an appointment and put in another request.

Don’t take it personally. Many women who are turned down for a pay rise or promotion think “They hate me” and “I should never mention it again” and then worry they have ruined their relationship with their boss. Yet pay negotiations are about your value to the organisation, not your value as an individual.

Ann Francke is CEO of Charterted Managment Institute. She has held executive board positions at Boots and Yell.

If you don’t ask… Pay is often linked to a promotion, but research shows that men are more likely to ask than a woman. The problem is that many women are not going in and asking for their due.

Know and use the facts. Research the gender pay gap in your sector and put forward a factual argument, so that it is less about you complaining – and whether you are good enough to warrant a pay rise – and more about systemic cultural issue that needs to be addressed across the whole organisation. Remind your employer that this data is going to be made public in the near future and that addressing the issue helps the business to retain female talent. You could also add that gender-balanced businesses get better results.

Don’t think it’s not your problem. Women aged over 40 have bigger pay gaps than graduates entering the workforce and the more senior you are, the more likely you are to be paid far less than male colleagues. CMI research shows that the pay gap for women aged over 40 in management roles is 35 per cent – and it’s worse than a decade ago. Wake up to the issue or you will never get the pay you deserve.

What are you worth?

Ask recruitment firms in your sector, scour job ads and benchmark your pay at:, and

What are your rights?

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has a wealth of free advice online: Visit