Take the Pay Gap Into Your Own Hands: 5 Ways to Work Towards a Salary Increase

Nicole Singh

Fact: The gender pay gap between full-time working men and women in Australia is currently sitting at 15.3 percent—which translates to around $253.70 less per week for female professionals—according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

But on a grass-root level, closing the gap, quite literally translates into women strategically working their way towards salary increases each day. And while finding a job that pays a great starting wage is one way, if you’re currently loving your job and the company you work for, we spoke to Melanie Evans, Head of Retail Banking at ING, about practically working your way towards a pay increase.

While knowing your value is one thing, the other is understanding how to communicate, leverage and negotiate your skill set while also understanding the current state of your company and industry. Passionate about not only getting paid fairly, but also finding financial security, we also asked Evans about some of the best uses of your pay cheque once you do get that raise. Read on for her timely advice.

Should women in the workplace be aiming for a pay rise every year due to inflation and the growing cost of living?

Women must overcome their own reluctance to pursue higher salaries. A discussion about a pay rise can be very constructive if you centre it on one or more of the above mentioned payrise influences. It’s made easier if you work for a business that has an annual process that reviews your achievements and your pay against market forces. Aiming for a pay increase each year should be your aim, but there could be other reasons why you should be asking for a pay rise above inflation. It’s best to be aware and objective about the things that influence changes in pay:

  • The financial health of the business: Small businesses in particular may go through phases where additional cash is not available for material pay increases; on the other hand, if the business is healthy your employer should be reviewing your pay on a regular basis. Usually annually.

  • The employment environment: If employment rates are high and it is possible for you to gain a similar role elsewhere at a significantly higher rate, your employer is likely to know this and should be rewarding you with market-like rates.

  • Your level of responsibility and accountability: When taking on more responsibility or additional leadership accountability is a great time to have a conversation with your employer.

  • Your experience: As each year passes your experience builds and the value you add at work should increase. This should be linked to pay.

  • Your potential: When a business realises your potential and the future value you can add, your employer should be more likely to reward you financially.

What are some key ways women can keep upskilling and asking for more remuneration in order to finally gain equal pay?

There are two key reasons why women face a pay gap: Role type and working patterns. In order to find yourself in a higher paying role, you should be clear on what that role looks like. You don’t need to have a 30-year career plan, but you should be able to let your existing or potential employer know what role you are aiming for and understand what skills or experiences they expect you to gather to get there.

Upskilling can involve: Taking on a new area of responsibility, working on a special project, becoming an expert in the latest technology or doing extra study to gain a qualification that you can apply at work. Always express interest in extra training to your employer and take it when it’s offered, especially if it is at the expense of your employer.

I also suggest dedicating time to reading magazines, blogs or journals aimed at your industry and stay up to date with the latest innovations and news. Networking is another great way to stay across industry changes, trends and upskilling opportunities. Speaking to others may also uncover a career opportunity if you connect with someone who is looking for someone like you.

Unfortunately, those that work part-time may gain equal pay on an hourly basis, but not in total because of fewer paid hours. This is a structural gap that exists for those that need flexibility for other reasons such as family and caring. My advice to anyone in this situation is to ensure you are paid for the hours you work. It is very common for those in part time roles to do a few hours here and there on their days off. If this becomes significant and you feel as though it is unfair, you should discuss with your employer.

What are some ways women can make the most with what they are making in terms of saving and investing?

It’s not just what you earn and how you save but how you spend it. To make the most of what you’re earning you really need to be mindful of what you’re spending. It sounds like a simple thing to do but it’s all too easy to overspend because you’re not conscious of the purchases you’re making, or how they add up.  Also, be equally aware of any debt and never ignore a bank statement!

Other things you can consider to make your dollar stretch further include:

  • Staying on top of your bills: Not paying your bills on time can result in late payment fees and affect your credit rating.

  • Making time to shop around: It might take a bit of time to compare and contrast different retailers, utility suppliers etc. but it will be worth it in the long run.

  • Switching mortgage providers: If you have a mortgage look into whether switching providers will result in getting a better deal. ING research from September last year found that Australians who switched their home loan provider in 2016 and 2017 made an average annual saving of $1,073 per household per year.

  • Consolidating your super: If you’ve had more than one job it is possible you have more than one super account and this can be a waste of money. Fees can keep getting deducted from your accounts, even those you don’t have money going into. Think about choosing just one that works for you. Also, think about giving your super a little kick by making voluntary contributions—chat to your employer about making a before tax —this means they redirect a portion of your pre-tax income to your super.

  • Saving your loose change: Every time you have loose change from small purchases think about putting that spare change aside in a jar to later treat yourself. 

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