Do Women Get Paid Less than Men and Why?
Not without reason, Iceland passed a law in 2018 which forces companies to prove that they pay men and women equally. The reasons for the pay gap are multiple, and numerous studies have been performed on this topic.
Comparing Apples With Oranges
It’s tough to establish how big the pay gap is because we often compare apples with oranges. For example, we need to consider that in many countries, many women work part-time jobs as they also need to take care of kids.
There are few chances for promotions and career development in part-time jobs, which is one part of the problem because pay raises usually go hand in hand with promotions. So the overall career development for women in part-time positions will be slower than for men in full-time employment.
There might also be security: a woman who is taking care of her kids might not want to exchange the safe current workplace against another one where she might need to have less flexibility, more work, more overtime, etc. So, she probably won’t apply for a better-paid job in a different company out of fear that it won’t be compatible with her current lifestyle.
I experienced this several times as a team manager. I wanted to promote a woman working part-time, give her more responsibility and exposure. Still, she didn’t want to out of fear that she would have to do longer hours, lose the flexibility to take care of her kids when they need it and generally be more stressed.
Furthermore, we also need to consider that women and men often choose different careers. There are male-dominated, well-paying industries that can be regarded as unsuitable careers for women. Jobs in IT, for example, pay well, yet there are quite a few female software developers, IT project managers, system administrators, etc. Then there are typically female-dominated industries that don’t pay as well.
Lower Starting Salaries
As a team and hiring manager, I also identified another reason for the pay gap: women ask for much lower starting salaries than men. I experienced this many times amongst male and female applicants of the same age group and for the same position.
My personal experience with my team members, clients, and friends mainly covers office-related jobs, e.g. in Customer Service, Sales, Project Management, Communications/PR and similar positions, where men and women are usually equally represented. I haven’t had clients in typically male or female-dominated industries, so I wouldn’t be able to say if there is a difference.
From my personal experience as a team manager and as a coach for job applications, I know that salary negotiation are a complex topic for most women. I understand that. Salary negotiations are uncomfortable. You don’t want to create conflict, especially when starting in a new job – and salary negotiations can feel just like that.
You might also be at a loss on how to argue your case, so it’s easier to settle with what they recommend. Or you might not feel confident enough that you are worth more. You might feel like an imposter and therefore go with whatever you are offered.
Here’s the good news: I have a lot of advice on how you can improve your salary negotiations, and I’ll do this in a miniseries over the next few days. So stay tuned for the following posts, covering topics like how to determine your worth, how to prepare your salary negotiations, how to negotiate better and how to build your case for a pay raise.