In heels over the pay gap: in five steps to a better salary

"It can't go on like this!" I wrote that when I heard that my 19-year-old daughter was already earning less per hour than her boy colleagues in the fries shop where she has a side job. It's time for action. That was the motivation to say YES to the program 'What do you earn?' of BNNVARA which was broadcasted on Monday January 29th.

That's where I share my story. That I found out that my male colleague earned 1,000 euros more per month than I did. You do the math, that's 12,000 euros a year. The annual income of a Brazilian or three times the annual income of someone from Egypt. No cat piss, as we say in our family.

I remember that moment well then. Did he just say he gets 1,000 euros more a month than I do? Unbelief. I guess I didn't hear it right. He probably saw it on my face, so he repeated his salary and then the quarter fell. A hard quarter, BAM. This is unfair, was my first thought. Because I had the same responsibilities. Even a bigger span of control. But I did.

When the first anger was gone, I went to HR. How could you? Well, I had to learn to live with that. They couldn't do anything with it now. My director at the time also thought it was unfair, but it would have a reason. Of course I got a first step (Yes! Just raising it bridged the first difference), but by no means the 1,000 euros. Where had I missed the boat?

Negotiate. I wouldn't have done that. Also, I hadn't figured out what the usual salary was for my position. A salary that suited my responsibilities, span of control and goals. There I had missed the exit. I immediately took the bull by the horns and went into training. At Direction I individually followed a 2-day course on female leadership (it no longer exists in that form, but there is a nice other option). At ASR I also organised an in-house Masterclass "Stratego for women" for myself and other colleagues, facilitated by Intouchwrm . Learning, practicing and then putting it into practice. That was the only way I could bridge the pay gap in my heels.

When I made the switch to KPN, my moment was there. I figured out what a common salary was, what scales there were and what 'above CAO' meant. I took the salary of my male colleague as a starting point and I praised that, because that amount was more than customary. I also looked closely at fringe benefits such as car, pension, training budget and parking space (status symbol numbero uno in those days at KPN). In the meantime, I had practiced negotiating, in practice and certainly in front of the mirror. So that my salary wish (or requirement, just what you call it) would come out smoothly in the conversation. Without too many stains on my neck.

A long story about negotiating short. In the conversation my previous salary was asked. I mentioned my male colleague's salary. Did I have a paycheck? No, I didn't. You know you don't have to give it to me and you don't have to. Gone is your bargaining power. In addition, I told you that I wanted to plus an x amount, given the responsibilities and the step I took. There came an offer, I negotiated a little more (because the first NO is the start of the negotiation) and we came out of it. BAM BAM BAM BAM. I danced in the room. I had done it. Now I deserved as much as my male colleagues. I was going to earn the salary that belonged to my position. Champagne toast, that's what I did that night.

Men earn on average 16.1% more than women. In the financial sector it is even 29%. That has its reasons and we can all agree on that. If I go into that, it's going to be a very long blog. So I don't do that. I do urge you to take action. You have two options.

Option 1: Do you have influence or are you in charge? Do you work at HR? Then you have influence. You can reduce the pay gap by rewarding women as much as men. What can you do?

  1. Know the facts.
    What is the reward among men and women in your company? What is the pay gap? In which departments does who earn what?
  2. Help women negotiate.
    Does a woman come for a new position and doesn't she ask for a step in salary? Help her. There's a good chance she won't dare. Then you can say "own fault, fat salary hump", but that doesn't change the world. Ask her if she still wants to negotiate or what salary she expected with this new position.
  3. Change the system.
    Equalize the salaries. You can't do this all at once. But if it turns out that there are big differences, make sure that women get more and thus bridge the pay gap. Because you can't explain to yourself that men earn more than women in your company. That's so 1987.

Option 2: Do you want to do something about your own salary? Will you join us in heels over the pay gap? I know, I know, I know, I know, I know. It's a gap. It's an exciting ride, and sometimes the gap is wide and high. But I promise you when you're over it there's money and a super good feeling: your winnings. You also earn more Face with your colleagues, because if you're paid for what you're worth, you'll be looked at with different eyes.

We go over the pay gap in 5 steps:

  1. Research
    What do your colleagues deserve? What is appropriate for your position with other companies? What scales are your colleagues in? Ask in broad terms, men and women. Write everything down in a separate booklet or digitally. Record everything you find. Step over your own assumptions, in terms of scale and step into it. You also do research on the internet, for example on the website of the programme "What do you earn? There are many options here. Do your preliminary work well. Visit HR. Discuss it at the coffee machine, during lunch. Don't do this too gaudily, but neutrally. If answers come out that show a pay gap as big as mine, try to keep your face in the fold (I could have done that more conveniently...).
  2. Determine your target salary
    Take a moment to reflect on all the information you've retrieved. Do you earn enough? Where are the differences? Salary, scales, emoluments? Are you still missing information? Then go back to step 1. Then it's time to decide what you want to go for. What is your target salary that fits your industry, your position? A real amount. Not approximately. Not plus or minus. No, you go for x euro. That may be an ambitious number.
  3. Negotiation strategy
    Now you're gonna decide how you're gonna bridge this pay gap. Why are you earning more than you're getting now? You write this down. Responsibilities, skills, competencies, results you have achieved, testimonials from others. Go crazy. Brag about yourself, why you should get this salary. Then think about who you should have a table with if you want to get more salary in your current job. Or if you make a switch, think carefully about which stakeholders you will get at the table. Are you going to sit down with your manager or director? Or is it HR? You come up with your strategy. Write down exactly what steps you are going to take.
  4. Practice
    This is really crucial. Time to practice. With your husband or wife. With your colleague you trust. With girlfriends or even better with friends. Really rehearsing the conversation like a play. Your sentences should come out well later, full of conviction why you deserve that salary, or why you should get into that scale. So that takes practice. Practice makes perfect, so this is your moment. In front of the mirror, in the car. You pick yourself up with your mobile. Yeah, you do. Because you want to hear back what you sound like. Does it look convincing? It does. Then you're ready. If you find it hard to negotiate for yourself, act like you're negotiating for your kid or a good friend. Sometimes it's easier to negotiate for someone else.
  5. Negotiate but
    You sit at the table with your interlocutor. Or in an international context sometimes behind skype. You are ready and tell what you want and why. Then you keep your mouth shut. Just until the other party responds. Chances are that there will be an objection. Why it can't be done. You stay very calm. Repeat your wish and the why. Or you ask what's possible. This is really exciting, but you stay calm. You can get stains on your neck, but that doesn't matter. You're doing it. You're being businesslike. Take it easy on yourself. If necessary, you talk about the wage difference between you and your colleague and ask when this will be compensated. You bite into it. Of course you can have several conversations about it, with your manager and/or HR that you get what you want. Each step is one and this way you reach the end of the pay gap. Doing it is the motto and this way you overcome your reluctance to negotiate. To get what you deserve.

Did you get to work? What is your experience and what was the result? Probably more than you thought. Do you share your experience in the comments? If you have any tips on how to negotiate better, please let us know! This is a great place to help each other and achieve results together.

This is not a blog about Customer Experience, my area of expertise I normally write and talk about. But this message had to get out! Thanks for all the support before, during and after the program. Many women and also men have shared their experiences and some examples are really painful. Sometimes we are still living in 1987, but we are hard on the road in 2018 to bridge the difference. I hope to make my contribution with my story in 'What do you deserve?' and this blog. Action is required: chop on and over that pay gap!

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