With Teresa May announcing the pay rises of the public sector a firestorm of articles have hit us, promising to deliver tried and true steps that will result in increased wages. Time and time again I was left frustrated, presenting my accomplishments throughout my 15 years in advertising agencies, only to be told that this work was expected of me. I hadn’t gone beyond when I had tripled my revenue targets. Winning an international award that the company promoted wasn’t enough. The worst was when I was called childish. Spluttered by my boss, after I pushed for justification why the pay rise wasn’t forthcoming, again. ‘It’s just business’, he muttered.
The social perception is that women don’t ask for pay rises as they are uncomfortable. We don’t like confrontation or don’t believe our skills are worthy. Whereas, we are led to believe, men are more confident and ballsy when going for what they want. This simply isn’t true for myself or my peers. Each year I asked for a pay rise or presented evidence for my company bonus. There didn’t seem to be any clear pattern to success. Harvard Business Review just published a study showing women ask just as much as men. They just don’t get. A young woman I mentor, Nina, spoke to me about her eight month wait for her promised pay rise. Each month she was told it would come through. Each time it failed, she loathed the company more and her work suffered. Ultimately, when received, all the joy of the pay rise had been squashed.
HBR noted that in times of company pressure men are favoured due to their perceived breadwinner status. Confirming we are still fighting a patriarchy system that ignores its creation of the career women and female independence. Off the record Julie, an academic researcher, was told her single status meant her boss overlooked her. Her university chose to increase her male colleagues pay as he is married with a child on the way. Not wanting to mix personal and private life Julie hadn’t told anyone at her work of her status as a single mother of a disabled child. Angry that she felt pressure to do this Julie told me she applied for other jobs and left that university for one paying her a higher salary.
Recently the company I used to work for announced a 2% yearly profit. Laughing I turned to my boss and joked ‘no pay rises again’! His sigh made me rethink for the first time.
Times are hard.
The UK market is currently preparing for Brexit. My industry, like many, is being squeezed by clients and notorious for late payments. Looking further afield the public sector is underfunded, despite trying to increase pay this year. Private sector companies are obligated by the stock exchange to deliver forecasted profits or their company automatically devalues. Imagine how stressful it was at Snapchat when Kylie Jenner caused their biggest devaluation!
I accessed my companies yearly review and reading the executive statement I discovered our commitment to purchasing additional companies. It detailed the business model, purchase the company and then pay the original owners a % of revenue for the following five years. Sitting back I looked internally and discovered that there was an unofficial ‘staff freeze’ (it pays to know people in all the departments). By leaving these jobs open the salary saved allowed the company to balance the profit and loss with all the company buying they planned. Externally I checked online and spoke to colleagues who had recently left our company. The rate of pay in the industry was higher then what I was getting for my experience and being loyal to my company was no longer paying off.
Having done all this research I started to apply for other jobs and after a few months of interviews I am now working at a company I love, with a work/life balance often unheard of and a well deserved pay rise.
There is hope and it is possible to get a pay rise. Just acknowledge if your company isn’t going to reward you and move on. After all, ‘it’s just business’.
I thought a checklist would be helpful and put this one together using my favourite website canva.com!
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences and any advice you have for others. PF xo