Inequality and the gender pay gap regularly hit headlines with female representation on boards, the ‘glass ceiling’ and pay differentials all being at the forefront of the discussion.
glass ceiling
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Indeed, the UK Statistics Authority recently released data to Parliament which demonstrated a drastic difference between the proportion of women and men in the country’s highest paying roles, with as few as 12% of women holding full-time jobs that pay £150,000 or more.

Research by Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR), the specialist executive search and interim management company, further highlighted this issue when it found that there are significant differences between the salary expectations of senior men and women. This extends to women in all industry sectors and almost all careers.

The research forms part of a report which asked NJR’s senior candidates for their average salary expectations. Their responses suggest that in like for like positions, female candidates have a significantly lower salary expectation than men. For example, female Non-Executive Directors expect over £48,000 less than a man in the same role; a 51.3% differential. This was the largest gap of all the roles studied, followed by Finance or Chief Finance Officers where there is a 25.8% differential.

Following the research, NJR asked ten highly successful business women to consider why they think the gender pay gap is still an issue, 45 years on from the introduction of Equal Pay. The advice highlights where they feel workplace problems arise which exacerbate the gender divide and gives their tips on climbing to the top of the career ladder.

Plan ahead

Roberta Jacobs, who has 20 years director-level executive experience working at or advising companies such as Viacom, Sega and Hewlett Packard, believes that by creating a career plan early on we can identify the salary milestones we must work towards to avoid the issue of pay differential. “Women need to plan backwards: this means taking time frequently, ideally daily, to imagine your life and career from ‘the end’ working backwards to where you are. Then move forwards.” By setting

Similarly, Debbie Edgar, CEO of Dragon Infrastructure Solutions, one of the few companies allowed to connect construction projects to the national grid, thinks it is important to set goals from the get go: “You must know what your ultimate goal is – it’s the only way to ensure that all your decisions, actions and resolutions are undertaken with that outcome in mind.”

Another advocate of career planning is Dr Miriam Stoppard, famous doctor, author, television presenter and advice columnist. “Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. What is your desired outcome? That to which you give your attention creates your experience”

Confidence is key

A common theme throughout the report is the need for women to have confidence in themselves. Dr Sue Black, award-winning computer scientist named one of the top 50 women in European tech, believes that women need to be more forthcoming about their talents. “Women tend not to put themselves forwards. Don’t be shy about saying what you’re good at on your CV. It’s not showing off.” Dr Sue Black also thinks women need to find people who will boost their confidence and esteem: “Before a job interview find someone to give you a pep talk and tell you how great you are. It really does make a difference. Find those people who will make you feel good about yourself.”

She believes that this lack of confidence extends to money and urges women to aim high when negotiating a salary, otherwise the problem will only be heightened over time. “For some jobs – typically experienced-hire positions – women will be asked about their salary expectations. They should find out what a typical salary would be for the job in question, then ask for 10% more. This is particularly important when starting a career – the difference of a few thousand when you’re 21 can turn into 20, 30 or 40 thousand difference later in your career.”

Dr Miriam Stoppard believes that women need to be confident in their ability to do the job just as well as anyone else, particularly men. “Don’t try to emulate a man’s way of working or managing. Women, if anything, are better managers than men and certainly better at managing people. The female way of working is equally successful to the way a man works, so do things in your own way, in your own style.”

Get the balance right

In order to sustain a career at the top, Jo Moffatt, Managing Director of Woodreed, the specialist ad agency she founded 20 years ago who is also a mother of three sons, believes that it is essential to maintain a good work life balance. “Don’t buy the myth that you can ‘have it all’. Instead buy help.

It doesn’t make you a more successful business woman, a better, more loving wife or mother or a more considerate, caring daughter to try and do it all yourself. So buy in what you need to make your life work – call Ocado, book the cleaner, organise an ironing service and schedule stimulating child-care – everyone will be happier as a result.”

To get more advice from these ten successful business women, download ‘The Secrets of My Success’

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