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3 women on the impact of the gender pay gap, and how to get the salary you deserve

From self-advocacy to pay range transparency, Stylist spoke to both real women and the experts about how to feel more empowered about your career, your salary and your future… 

Ah, the gender pay gap. We’re all more than familiar with the phrase, but often we need a reminder of the impact it has to confidently try and combat the effect it has on our careers and lives.

In 2021, the difference between average hourly earnings for men and women in the United Kingdom for all workers was 15.4%, and while research has shown that the gap is closing (the gap was at its highest in 1997 when it was a staggering 27.5% for all workers), these figures are still representative of the disparity within the workplace.

With the stats in mind, we spoke to three women from very different industries about how the gender pay gap has affected them. Plus, two experts give us their advice on the steps we can take to help close this gap and negotiate the salary we deserve…

  • 1. Know your worth, literally

    Emma*, 26, recently left her job in the hospitality sector because she was being paid far less than her male counterparts.

    “Even though the restaurant I was managing was taking in the largest amount of money (with the least site support), I still wasn’t being paid the same as the male managers for doing the same role. This experience has left me feeling undervalued and ignored, especially now I’m looking for a new job in the same industry.”

    “It’s so important for women to know their worth when looking for a new job,” says Clíona Hayes, director of global brand advertising at Indeed.

    “Using a tool like Indeed’s Salary Calculator – which analyses millions of pay entries to show a person’s potential based on job title and location – will help you understand your pay range and equip you with the right insights to help negotiate a better package for the future.” 

    Selina Flavius, founder of Black Girl Finance, also believes we should be talking more about money and salaries in order to establish our sense of worth within the workplace. And research would suggest the same.

    A survey carried out by the Money & Pensions service in 2020 found that 55% of UK adults don’t feel comfortable talking about their financial situation – proof that we all should be chatting more about money, including what we earn and how to better it. 

    “Do what you need to do to feel comfortable talking about money and salaries,” Flavius advises. 

    “Practise with a friend or ask people in similar industries how they instigated a salary conversation – discuss what tactics they used to get the offer they felt they deserved.”

  • 2. Look for transparency in a new role

    Sometimes, it’s not an obvious pay gap but rather a lack of transparency. Starting out, women may have no idea what the benchmark salary is when it comes to the role they are performing.

    “Quite often, you come in green to a job without knowing what’s competitive in terms of a day rate, so you could go on and on working for far less than what you’re worth,” says Cathy*, 37, a production assistant working on the live music circuit. I’m pretty sure my male colleagues are being paid more than me, but I have no way of knowing what the pay bracket is.

    Hayes recognises that this lack of pay transparency is a problem and one that ultimately adds to the gender pay gap.

    “Attitudes towards pay transparency must change if we are to normalise conversations around wages,” she says.

    “Not only does salary transparency empower employees to negotiate their pay with their employer, it also encourages companies to evaluate if there are pay gaps within their organisation,” says Hayes.

    Use job sites that make it clear when there is a listed salary range, filter job searches by salary, or visit Indeed’s Find Salaries page to browse the top paying jobs and companies by industry. This way you can get an idea of what other companies might be offering for your existing role, or the one you’re seeking.

    And once you have an idea of the salary bracket?

    “Identify clear reasons why you deserve a particular salary bracket, and come with evidence of what you’ve achieved to support this,” says Hayes.

    “Another thing to remember is flexibility. Employers might not offer you your perfect package so think about whether more paid holidays or more convenient working hours make up for the shortfall. Perhaps most importantly of all: don’t be afraid to walk away if a job offer does not work for you.”

  • 3. Master negotiation

    Shantelle*, 35, works in media. As a Black woman, she feels she must negotiate even harder to get the salary she deserves.

    “In my industry, everyone knows everyone, so you always have a rough idea of what people are earning. It was only when I went for a job at a large agency, where I knew what salary my white, male predecessor was on, that I realised how vast the gap was. I got the job, only with a significantly lower pay offer, so I had to negotiate really hard to get the salary I wanted.”

    “Currently, there is no legal requirement for companies to report their ethnicity pay gap and the longer this persists the more likely progress will be slow and true equality more distant,” says Hayes.

    “However, when it comes to negotiating your salary, self-esteem – or self-advocacy – is crucial to securing the best deal for you.”

    “Negotiating is not something that happens once a year in performance reviews. We should be constantly seeking feedback, so we’re aware of where we’re succeeding and where we need to improve,” Hayes continues.

    “If you’re making this improvement plan for yourself, then you are gaining the currency and insights you need to negotiate your value.”

    Flavius adds: “Highlight any additional studying or experience obtained while out of work.”

    “Also, don’t lose sight of the skills obtained during your previous employment. Be confident, emphasise your enthusiasm and willingness to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

    And, both experts agree that it’s key to look at the whole picture, from company culture to benefits, to secure the job offer you deserve.

    “Is there a training allowance to get you to where you see yourself in the future?” asks Flavius. “Share options? Extra annual leave? Flexible working? Work isn’t just about the salary – think about the whole package being offered.”

    Using tools such as Indeed’s Company Reviews – based on surveys carried out by current employees – can help you find companies that prioritise the things that are important to you.

    Hayes concludes: “In a recent survey, 89% of people told us that diversity, inclusion and belonging are important to them. So, for women looking for a new job, seeing and hearing first-hand how an organisation fosters a sense of belonging is an important step to finding a job where you can be happy and thrive.” 

Indeed is on a mission to help women enter and return to the workforce by championing their needs and breaking down the barriers which limit their ability to find better work. Discover new product features, messaging, partnerships and programs at uk.indeed.com

* Names have been changed