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Pay rises: Women's tips and managers' excuses

Plastic models of a man and woman stand on a pile of coins and bank notes Image copyright PA

Don't go in angry, make your case based on the facts and go with positive examples of your work - three tips from three women who have asked their employers for a pay rise.

While women are just as likely to ask for a pay rise as men, they are less likely to receive one, according to research.

Here we speak to three women about the excuses they have heard when asking for a pay rise, and find out whether they were successful in their attempts.


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Media captionSusan Raines, a professor of conflict management, explains her experience of fighting for better pay and offers her best advice.

Susan Raines is a professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University in the US state of Georgia. She was told a male colleague was paid more than her because he had a wife to support.

"A male colleague and I competed for the same job, for which I was selected.

"My employer liked the male candidate too, so a year later they hired him, paying him $4,000 (£2,977) more per year for the same job I had been doing for a year.

"When I asked my (female) boss why this was so, she said it was because he had a wife to support.

"I told her I was a divorced single mom with a disabled child, but that I had not thought to use that status to raise my pay.

"She refused to give me equal pay.

"I was so frustrated, I started to look for another job.

"I applied for and was offered a much higher salary from a competing university in North Carolina.

"I told my boss I would not like to move my family to North Carolina, but they would have to match the salary to keep me.

"They scrambled to find the money to keep me.

"I teach graduate courses in negotiation and one of the strategies I teach is to ask yourself if there is a better offer elsewhere - the risk is your employer could say 'Go with God!', so you can't be fully bluffing."


Excuses from employers

Women have been emailing the BBC with the reasons they have been given for not getting a pay increase. Here is a selection of some of them:

  • It's impossible to compare your experience with male colleagues
  • Your male colleague has a wife to support
  • We don't keep records of pay
  • It's to do with other factors
  • It's under review
  • We're changing your responsibilities
  • We can't afford it
  • No response

Examples drawn from responses received by the BBC to this news story Women seek pay rises as much as men - with less success


Image copyright Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer from Wales worked as a newspaper sub-editor, but resigned after failing to receive a pay rise.

Despite becoming an award-winning crime fiction writer, Belinda still feels aggrieved over what she sees as a lack of fairness in her pay.

"I worked as a sub-editor for a newspaper and about a year into the job I found everyone else in my department was earning more than me.

"I asked for a pay rise to bring me into line with the rest of the desk and the editor agreed that I deserved it, and that he would see about a pay rise at the next round of pay negotiations.

"I was really nervous. I am not at all assertive in the workplace. But I was upset. I knew how hard I was working.

"In the end I didn't get the rise. I was so cross that I handed in my notice. I was on friendly terms with my editor. I told him what he already knew - that I deserved more money.

"I have a highly tuned sense of fair play. I still feel aggrieved.

"Most women could feel quite beaten down by the experience. Most people would shrug their shoulders and say OK. I think men are more likely to quit or to make a fuss.

"I was really worried about leaving a job and colleagues I loved, especially as I only had a bit of freelance writing work to fall back on, but felt so upset by the injustice of my position that I quit on principle. It was scary but empowering!

"I am now writing my seventh novel. I earn many times more than I did when I worked at the newspaper. In the end not getting that pay rise was the best thing that ever happened to me."


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Media captionDr Amanda Goodall explains research suggesting women do ask for pay rises

Mary worked in a law firm until her request for better pay led to her being ostracised in the industry. She lives in Bristol, in the UK.

"I asked for more money and pointed out what I believed were the discrepancies between the salaries paid to male staff and the salary paid to me.

"After I asked I suffered months and months of abuse until I couldn't take it any more. I eventually complained and then left.

"I wasn't the only female member of staff to ask about pay. Others left as they felt they weren't being promoted.

"In 2012, a male colleague was given an associate partnership. I felt I was being overlooked. In the legal world it's all about post-qualification experience and he started two years after I did.

"I raised this, but then the ceiling crashed in.

"I had worked there for 11 years and was as loyal as could be, but afterwards I wasn't invited to meetings - it felt oppressive.

"I was in a meeting for two hours with the CEO, a director and the head of personnel. They kept asking if I was bringing up a sex discrimination case. I was in tears. I felt like I was being attacked. It was a barrage of criticism and threats.

"I knew if I made a formal complaint there was no turning back. I didn't want to, but I took advice from an outside firm.

"In the end I resigned. I haven't worked since 2014 as the law is such a close-knit community and so specialised."

Produced by the BBC's UGC and Social Media team

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