Pay inequality due to women 'underselling themselves'

Women need to be more confident about promoting their skills and negotiating for what they’re worth if they’re to overcome the gender pay gap, a senior recruitment consultant says.

In a recent international survey by recruitment agency Robert Half 65% of New Zealand women respondents said they think men are paid more than women for doing the same job.

But in the latest Robert Half podcast senior manager Megan Alexander said she does not see employers discriminating against women this way.

However, she said she frequently sees female candidates underselling themselves.

“What I do see is that women take themselves out of higher-paying jobs because of the other choices they make in their personal lives,” she said.

As a result, fewer women than men tend to apply for higher-paying jobs.

She also said that women often don’t sell their skills as effectively as men do.

“I do think that women need to learn to sell themselves better … they sell themselves short in a lot of instances, they don’t talk about what they can bring to the role enough.”

This also occurs in pay reviews for existing employees, Ms Alexander said.

Many women are not confident about asking in reviews what they need to do to win a pay rise and advance their career.

“Because they don’t go in and ask and don’t self-promote – they tend to hang back – that’s when they don’t get recognition.”

But employers also have their part to play in communicating candidly with female employees about what their aspirations are, what their career paths could be, and what they need to do to achieve them, she said.

“I think employers don’t spend enough time doing that.”

Ms Alexander said that even though she does not see pay discrimination happening, “perception is reality”, and employers need to ensure that their processes are fair and seen to be fair.

“An employer never wants to have their brand reputation put into jeopardy. It’s really, really important that it’s demonstrated that women have the same fair and equal opportunities as men and vice versa.”

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'Women don't ask' - that's the conclusion and the title of a book by US academics Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever ( which shows that women hate to negotiate, that men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women, and are paid more as a result. By negotiating a higher salary for their first job men go on to earn more their whole lives. By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60, their research found.
"Many women are so grateful to be offered a job that they accept what they are offered and don't negotiate their salaries.
" Women often don't know the market value of their work: Women report salary expectations between 3 and 32% lower than those of men for the same jobs; men expect to earn 13% more than women during their first year of full-time work and 32% more at their career peaks."
For women, the good news is that they can learn to negotiate.

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I agree with that women are not great negotiators and do undersell themselves. But I can honestly say, having worked in a male dominated environment to date, even when you do go into a negotiation and justify pay rises, you need to be sitting opposite someone who is willing to pay a woman the same as they would a man. And that is often not the case. And they are not all baby boomers either, a lot are XGen.

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