If the thought of asking your boss for a pay rise or a promotion brings you out in a cold sweat you are not alone. It is a daunting prospect for anyone, but there is evidence to suggest that women find these situations far more stressful and, as a consequence, tend to suffer in silence. Whereas men tend to see it as a routine career progression method, women find it much harder and often only do so when a major disparity in pay has been revealed.

This might not be such a problem if pay between the genders was truly equal. Unfortunately, despite it being part of UK law since the seventies, women are still paid on average 17% less than men for full-time work and almost 40% less than men for part-time work. This seems to imply that whilst the law is one thing, reality in the equal pay stakes seems to be another.

Despite this, asking for a pay rise needn’t be a nightmare scenario. With a little bit of preparation and research, you can walk confidently into your boss’s office and make your case.

Do your research

The last thing you want is to make an unplanned stop at your manager’s office and demand a raise without researching it. Chances are an off-the-cuff request will result in a big fat no.

Ask your colleagues what they’re earning and get an understanding of how undervalued you feel you are within your company. It is also important to take a look at comparable job vacancies within your industry so you get to know the average salaries for both your current role and the more advanced positions you are aiming for. 

Talented Ladies Club founder Hannah Martin says: “Doing your research is vital. It’s a bit like going for an interview and you should think about what you can offer, what you are worth and what skills you have. Think of it as building a case for court and take with you evidence of appropriate salaries in your business and the wider industry.”

Be confident when assessing your own value

Look back over the work you have done and compile a list of your achievements. It’s good to demonstrate how you have added value to a business, perhaps with sales brought in, projects successfully completed or testimonials. It’s important to highlight areas where you feel you have gone over and above the responsibilities of your current role and taken the initiative to achieve a goal or impressive results.

Bart O’Toole, CEO of Accordance VAT Ltd, recognises this when he argues that women shouldn’t be afraid to blow their own trumpet.

“I will always listen to someone who can show what they have done to help further my company. If they can demonstrate consistency, value, and good work then there is a good chance they will get a raise.”

Build more relationships in your industry

It’s a well-worn cliché but who you know, in most cases, is often as important as what you know. Although it has been argued that women aren’t usually as natural as men at networking, building relationships with senior staff members is often overlooked as many believe hard work and results should speak for themselves. However, understanding the politics and hierarchy within your company and ensuring you build closer relationships with influential colleagues will always widen your appeal and increase your chances of getting that raise.

Ensure your timing is right

Picking the right time is almost as important as having the evidence to back up your argument. Don’t bother your boss when they are heading to a meeting or late on a Friday afternoon when the weekend is beginning to beckon. Instead, pick a time when things are more relaxed, usually after lunch is a good time to approach someone, and perhaps consider meeting in a neutral environment.

Corinne Mills, managing director at Personal Career Management, says: “Make sure they aren’t rushing off and that nothing else is coming up - an important client visiting or a big new pitch - that might take priority.”


And finally, remember the old adage, “Don’t ask, don’t get”. It may be nerve-wracking but you might find you get exactly what you want and live to tell the tale.

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