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Most women have never asked for a pay rise, survey finds

19 Sep 2019 By Francis Churchill

Men significantly more likely to request a salary increase, and receive more when they negotiate

The majority of women have never asked for a pay rise, a survey of UK workers has found, as experts called for more transparency around how salary increases and promotions are awarded.

A poll of 9,000 employees, conducted by Robert Walters, has found 57 per cent of female respondents had never attempted to negotiate a pay rise, and that men were 23 per cent more likely to negotiate a rise at all stages of their careers.

The survey also found women who did negotiate their pay secured on average a 6 per cent rise, whereas men typically received 8 per cent, and as a result were more likely to feel their salary was an accurate representation of what they do (38 per cent compared to 30 per cent).

When asked about the barriers to career progression, a lack of opportunity was cited as the biggest issue by both men and women, followed by balancing work and family life, and training.



But more women cited a lack of confidence than men (22 per cent and 13 per cent respectively), with a similar proportion of women mentioning a lack of diversity at senior levels.

Charles Cotton, CIPD senior adviser for performance and reward, said part of the reason such a large proportion of women had never negotiated a pay rise could be because female professionals were more likely to work in the public sector, where there are often very few opportunities to ask for a salary increase.

“Their pay is determined externally from the organisation. If you’re a teacher, your pay is determined by the pay review body, your length of service and the pay structure you’re in, so you don’t have as much opportunity to ask for a pay rise,” he said, noting that this was similar in local government and other areas of the public sector.

“The only opportunity you have to ask for a pay rise is if you ask for a promotion,” he added.

Cotton said businesses wanting to give women more confidence in asking for pay rises or promotions needed to be more transparent to all employees about both the processes and outcomes of reward and progression decisions.

“If organisations are committed to having fair systems in place they need to have conversations with all their employees about what the processes are and what is taken into account, so women are in a better position to judge whether they deserve a higher pay rise,” he said. “Then women do have the opportunity to question if they don’t think they’re being fairly rewarded.”

The opportunity for women to progress can also largely depend on the availability of flexible working arrangements, Cotton added: “Many women still have the main caring responsibilities, so the only way they can cope with those demands would be flexible working arrangements, and if they do have that they’ll be more likely to progress in their career.”

Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters, said: “Women need to feel more confident about their value to firms and it’s clear employers can do more to help empower them.

“What this report also highlights is that women, from junior through to senior levels, see a lack of gender representation at their level or above as a key barrier to being able to progress. Employers need to understand the effects of unconscious bias, and take active steps on how they can best eliminate this.”

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