Seven ways for women to negotiate better pay and conditions at work
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6 min. read

Seven ways for women to negotiate better pay and conditions when applying for a new job

Want to negotiate better pay and conditions in your job, but not sure where to start?

The gender pay gap in Australia is real, and sits at about 23 percent – though it is very slowly shrinking:

Australia's Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap means that for every $1,000 (on average) an Australian man makes at work, women earn just $772. For a woman on an average, full-time wage, over the course of just one year, that difference adds up to over $10,000!

Part of the reason for this pay gap is that more men than women are more successful in negotiating their pay with their employer.

Research by the Fair Work Commission in 2013-2014 found among 7,800 employees surveyed:

  • 51.3% of men had negotiated their pay rate with their employers;
  • Only 35.8% of women had negotiated their pay rate with their employers;
  • 19.2% of men reported that they were successful in negotiating their salary;
  • And only 12.7% of women reported that they were successful in negotiating their salary.

While there are structural inequalities in the system that make it more difficult for women to negotiate their pay, that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t benefit from improving the way they negotiate pay and conditions.

So if you’d like to improve your pay or conditions when applying for a new job, here are seven ways to lay the groundwork for a successful negotiation:

1. Understand the job you’re applying for

To negotiate effectively when applying for your dream ethical job, you need to understand the role inside and out by getting a thorough position description.

A good position description should include the:

  • Required skills;
  • Responsibilities; and
  • Job demands, including work arrangements and flexibile work options.

If the job ad you find on the site doesn’t include these details, don’t be afraid to contact the organisation by phone or email to request this before you apply.

2. Understand your non-negotiable legal rights

Australia has National Employment Standards that include a host of workplace rights – no matter what the type of organisation or job. The standards cover things like overtime, leave entitlements, termination and redundancy.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website includes links to a range of resources to help you understand your rights when starting a job, including information on what an employment contract should look like, a pay calculator, information about unions and other legal issues you may come up against.

You can also educate yourself about the questions that you’re not legally allowed to be asked in a job interview, and what to do in the even that you are asked them.

3. Check the market

To know if the pay you’re being offered is fair, it’s powerful to know what people in comparable roles are being paid.

Some things you can do to get this information:

  1. Check the pay and conditions of similar roles in other organisations. Websites like Payscale can help with this.
  2. Do some research on salary surveys for the NFP sector; and
  3. Contact industry unions that may be able to give you information on the type of role you’re applying for to see if the pay and conditions are fair.

Of course, not all organisations are the same, so you need to take into account the organisation’s size and resources, as well as which sector the role is in – pay in the NFP sector often lags behind similar government and private sector roles.

4. Consider the whole package

While not-for-profits often can’t compete with corporate salaries, they will often offer other benefits to make up for it.

Salary packaging is a unique benefit for the not-for-profit section, and can often add literally thousands of dollars in additional value onto the stated salary for a role through reducing your tax bill.

So check the job ad and the psoition description to find out if the employer offers this service, and if it’s not clear how much difference it will make, don’t hesitate to ask.

Conditions like fewer hours, flexible work arrangements and professional development opportunities are also common and attainable in the not-for-profit sector, and can balance out lower pay for some roles.

Calculate the cash value of what’s on offer to see if it lines up with your expectations of a fair package for the role.

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5. Develop your proposal

Once you’ve worked out what’s on offer, consider what your needs are.

First work out what your own financial plan is for the short and long term – everything from covering your living costs to saving for a major purchase. Once you’ve done that you can start to figure out what your parameters are for accepting or staying in a job.

When you get offered a job, that’s the time to begin your negotiation. (Don’t miss these 4 tips for salary negotiations during the interview process.)

But be aware too that for some roles in the NFP sector, the pay is set at an award rate – which sets the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment – or by a funding body, so the organisation may not always be able to negotiate the salary.

6. Practise negotiation

Just like practising for a job interview, practising for pay negotiation will improve your performance.

Good negotiation is all about preparation. Start by identifying what your strengths are and use them as the foundation for your negotiations.

Then, try to work out what counter arguments the employer might have and come up with solutions to any problems they might put forward.

If you can, find a mentor or friend who you can practise negotiating with.

There are heaps of online resources on how to improve your salary negotiation skills – if you’re serious, their are also many courses in how to improve your negotiation skills too.

7. Review your offer

If you’ve successfully negotiated and received an offer, you’ll need to review it carefully to make sure it meets your needs.

If you’re not comfortable with it, remember that you can always turn the offer down.

Make sure that you have the offer in writing, and if you do accept it, hold on to a signed copy – usually in the form of a letter of engagement or a contract.

Just as important is making sure that your employer follows through on what was agreed upon, so regularly come back to the offer and ensure that they’re implementing what was promised.