The gender pay gap is a harsh reality for women across the western world, but we can do more than we realise to mitigate its effects, says behavioural money coach and speaker Lea Clothier.
“Whilst gender barriers do exist, and the pay gap is real, the fact remains that many women undervalue themselves and their contributions,” says Ms Clothier.
“Many women are in themselves the barrier to their own gender pay success,” Ms Clothier added.
“In my experience as a behavioural money coach, I have discovered that many women have a belief in the narrative that they will under-earn men.”
Under-earning is the reality of earning less than one might expect, given that person’s skills, abilities, experience, qualifications and actual contributions.
In Australia women earn 13.4% less that the average man, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data cited in the Financy Women’s Index.
In the United Kingdom, in 2020, the gender pay gap was 15.5%. In the United States the gap is 16%, slightly better than France. In New Zealand it is around 9%.
The impact on women is also well documented. Aside from the difference in regular income, which places women under chronic financial stress, there is a gulf between men and women in retirement savings. Women retire with 42% less superannuation than men.
“In real terms, if a man retires with $270,710, a woman gets just $157,050,” according to Australian Super.
This is a real, long-established, chronic and truly international disparity.
The reasons for the gender pay gap are many, varied and well documented. They include educational differences, occupation, age or family and motherhood.
Some of the gender pay gap is down to conscious and unconscious bia, according to Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
But some of the unconscious bias in contributing to the gender pay gap also belongs to women.
Ms Clothier says persistent societal beliefs such as accepting the idea that men will earn more than men, along with self-worth and confidence are the major barriers that women face.
“I also find that many women lack the knowledge on how to successfully negotiate a pay rise or confidence to have challenging conversations.”
She says anyone negotiating a pay rise must fully and objectively consider the value that they have contributed.
This means looking at the facts for evidence, getting clear on the contributions made in terms of increased productivity, completion of projects, streamlined efficiencies, increased profitability.
“If you are able to adequately show the value you have directly provided to the company’s people, performance or profits then it can provide evidence to show the value you are bringing in your role and the contribution you have made, and can make the pay rise discussion easier to have.”
It is both an empowering truth and a difficult one that our own thoughts, words and actions create our reality in life and that also applies to our financial reality.
Lea Clothier is a product designer and senior leadership team member of Financial Mindfulness.