The news that the BBC’s China editor Carrie Gracie has resigned in protest over her unequal pay compared to male colleagues is causing ripples right now across the media industry and beyond.
The huge gender pay gap at the BBC was revealed last summer when the government forced the corporation to reveal the salaries of all its presenters across radio and TV earning more then £150,000. Gracie discovered that her male international editor counterparts earned “at least 50% more” than she did, which I must say I found pretty shocking.
Gracie says that when she then asked to be paid equally, the BBC stalled her at every turn – so she felt she had no choice but to leave her role as she refused, as she puts it, to “collude knowingly in what I consider to be unlawful pay discrimination.”
She went on: “The support that I’ve had speaks to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.”
With Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes also making waves around the world, the time seems ripe for all of us women to make a stand and demand equality. There is a palpable hunger for change right now.
Oprah’s words: “I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up… I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” are still ringing in my ears. The tide is turning, and we need to ride the wave and demand equality in all areas of society, and particularly in the workplace.
The gender pay gap in the UK now might be at its lowest level for 20 years, but it’s still 9.1%, which averages out at around £100 less a week for women than men.
So how can we women demand equal pay at work?
I realise that it can feel awkward to talk about money – after all, the latest stats show that 59% of working women have never asked for a pay rise, compared to 42% of men.
In addition, 58% of women say they haven’t asked because they’re worried about their boss’s reaction There’s the problem with often unconscious bias that women asking for a pay rise are seen as ‘pushy’, whereas men asking for more are seen as ‘assertive’.
The most important thing you need to do first is LOTS of research. If you’re bold enough, talk to male colleagues in similar roles and ask what they earn. Search out salaries paid by other businesses for your role via job adverts and use an online salary checker – there’s a host of them if you Google. It is also worth finding out the typical salary and responsibilities for someone in a job that's one level above you – it may well be that you may be required to step up in your role to get more money.
This will give you a good base to work from and to ask for something realistic. Do be ambitious, but don’t go over the top, as you’ll achieve nothing.
Don’t try and get a pay rise via email. Ask for a meeting with your line manager in a relaxed setting – maybe even at a nearby coffee shop. Try and avoid a meeting in a formal office space.
Go into the meeting armed with an arsenal of facts, figures and examples to demonstrate how you’ve gone above and beyond in your role and how you will provide extra value to the business. List where you’ve won clients, boosted the bottom line, saved money, aced it as a team player or successfully taken the initiative. Maybe even prepare a portfolio of your winning work and collate a list of testimonials from colleagues and clients.
Assertiveness is essential as is selling yourself, so if neither come naturally to you, it might be an idea to role-play your negotiations, preferably with a friend who’s managed to ask for a pay rise previously.
A classic way to negotiate a pay rise is to begin by asking for more than you are willing to accept and be prepared to be haggled down. You can be ambitious, but you must be realistic – you don't want to talk yourself out of your job.
Your opening gambit could be something along the lines of: "I truly believe I’ve added extra in my role, and I believe this could be reflected in my pay. What do you think?"
Above all, avoid confrontation and don't be defensive. Remain calm and focused and if you’ve done your research thoroughly, you’ll be able to argue your case with bagfuls of examples. Then sit back and let your boss do the talking.
Finally, make sure your boss agrees to confirm anything you’ve managed to negotiate during in writing.
Remember – you are equal to your male colleagues and you deserve to have the same salary. So don’t let Carrie Gracie’s resignation be in vain and take some inspiration from Oprah – go get that pay rise and demand equality!