Ailin Quinlan.


Time is right for women to ask for that pay rise

With the economy on the up, it’s never been a better time to ask for a pay increase. But lack of confidence holds many women back, says Ailin Quinlan.

Time is right for women to ask for that pay rise

For the first time since the recession began, Irish employees are in line for a pay rise — Bank of Ireland is promising a 5% increase while the giant union SIPTU has signalled it’ll be seeking a similar rise for its members across the private and public sectors.

Now is the time for workers to step up and ask for extra money and promotion.

But for female workers this doesn’t always come naturally.

Given the disappointing levels of women in senior positions throughout much of the labour market, many experts believe there may be some unconscious characteristics which cause women to sell themselves short.

Just 34% of managers in Ireland are female, which is slightly higher than the EU average of 33.5%, though France weighs in at 40%. In the USA, however, 51.4% of women are in management and professional occupations.

Sheer lack of self-confidence often prevents women from speaking out, according to a research team in the University of Princeton.

When male and females volunteers were put to work solving a budget challenge, researchers found that when women were in the minority they spoke 75% less than their male peers did.

But hiding your light under a bushel may not be the way to zoom up the corporate ladder because being outwardly confident brings results, according to Dr Cameron Anderson at University College Berkeley.

His research found that people who openly demonstrate confidence tend to be more successful than their peers — even when those peers are more talented and more competent.

Other research found that women are slow to ask for a raise and when they do they tend to pitch lower than they should.

Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask, found that in studies with business school students, men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women — and when women do negotiate they ask for 30% less than men.

Lack of confidence may be a factor in why female employees can sometimes be less successful than male colleagues at marketing themselves successfully for promotion opportunities and better pay, says Dr Keith Gaynor, senior clinical psychologist, and cognitive behavioural therapist at St John of God’s outpatient department, Dublin.

Women, he says, focus on competence and may put off seeking promotion until ‘I am good enough’ or ‘when I have all the skills’.

“Women can wait to be perfect, but you’ll never have all the skills — you have to actually be in the position to develop them.”

The gap, believes Gaynor “is around women being unwilling to take risks” to risk failure or risk being disliked, he says.

“It’s one of the things at senior management that guys don’t have a problem doing and it can pay off for them in terms of getting up the management ladder even if they are not fully qualified.”

Men will put themselves into the pot and are more comfortable about blagging; “they talk a good talk and it pays off.

“Remember for lots of jobs in management there are no qualifications; “it’s about personality and negotiating skills,” warns Gaynor.

Women sometimes experience “an insecurity about putting themselves forward,” he says, adding that they often wait “for their hard work and diligence to be rewarded”.

However, he points out, “that is not how the world works — you have to push forward to get what you want. ”You have to actually walk into an office to broach the subject of pay negotiations but often women will not even ask the questions.

“There must be a willingness to fail.”

Women need to be a bit more cocky and self-confident about themselves, believes psychologist Patricia Murray.

When it comes to jobs or promotion, she says, many men tend to play a kind of ‘game’ — but a game which is the foundation of the formal industrial relations negotiations structure.

As part of this ‘game’ they automatically aim higher than they may actually expect to go — and ask for more than they expect to get.

That often means, she says, that they can take less and still look good.

Although women can be very strategic and can be excellent at picking up on mood and non-verbal body language, often they may not simply aim high enough she says, adding that the male approach of aiming higher than you expect to go and talking your way through helps them to do better overall.

Some younger women have started to take this approach she says, and have found it to be successful.

“You need to be more confident and show your competence without always referencing everything you’ve achieved,” she says.

“Some women will aim a bit lower than what they want because they don’t want to seem cheeky,” she says, adding that that’s actually defeating the whole purpose.

“It’s a good idea to be a bit more cocky and a bit more confident.”

“Good negotiation skills can be applied to all parts of life,” says Emma*, an experienced Garda hostage negotiator who has attended a number of incidents during her career.

“You have to be a good communicator,” she says, adding that you must be clear both about what you plan to say — and how you say it.

“You have to be clear in your thinking and in your speech.

“You have to be a good listener. This means giving the other side a chance to talk.

“Always remain calm and use a calm, warm tone,” she says, adding that to be a good negotiator you also need the ability to think on your feet.

“Be firm, but also be fair,” she counsels, adding that although every situation is different, a good negotiator will always clearly establish the needs and wants of both sides.

“And always be honest.”

Not her real name


Sheila O’Regan, financial advisor

One problem for women of my age (born 1963) is that they find it extremely hard to sell themselves. They doubt their capabilities, because nobody has ever told them how good they are.

Statistically, women negotiate significantly lower starting salaries than their male counterparts. This is because they don’t see their net worth in euro.

They feel they have to prove themselves in the job, as opposed to selling themselves at the interview stage.

However, when it comes to negotiating with the banks, in a debt-restructure situation, I find that women tend to outperform their male counterparts.

Women are much better at finding a solution and are more co-operative when making tough decisions. They also have the ability to look at the bigger picture.


Don’t undervalue yourself.

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself — if you don’t, no-one else will.

Don’t assume that you are only fit for a ‘supporting role’.

If you ask for too little, that’s what you’ll get.

Rosemary Delaney, entrepreneur and publisher

The adage ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ springs to mind when I think about women and negotiating.

Women are less confident than their male counterparts.

We like to tick all the boxes, demonstrate our ability time and time again, all in the the hope that we will ‘get noticed’, get that promotion and get that pay rise, without having to ask for it.

Men are less patient and they are more pushy. They value themselves and money is an important motivator for them.

They don’t like to wait and are more than happy to put their case forward to get to the next level.

They also ‘play the game’ by putting time into building their relationships — by playing the round of golf or conversing on the latest football league results with their boss, who traditionally has been another man.


Be more strategic when negotiating.

Put a monetary value on ‘you’.

Tell yourself you deserve that promotion, that salary increase.

Focus on two or three main goals — be they a promotion, more flexibility within your current role, or a pay increase or bonus incentives. Negotiate. Have a plan B.

If money is off the table now, agree a timeline. It will be harder for your manager/employer to say ‘no’ next time, if you have met pre-agreed goalposts.

Highlight a number of deals/value-added projects you have completed recently.

Demonstrate how you’ll add ‘value’ to the company going forward.

Don’t threaten to leave your job — it creates a negative atmosphere.

Make sure your figures add up. Don’t take the credit for work or revenues that you haven’t delivered.

Pick your time. If the company is a seasonal business, negotiate at the end of a good season and demonstrate how you have contributed to their success.

Josepha Madigan, lawyer

Men will put themselves forward for a job they might not be able to do, but women feel they have to know everything about the job before they go for it, and they will shy away from going for it.

Women also tend to hang back and allow men to step forward.


You don’t have to be aggressive to get what you want — be persuasive.

Use your femininity as a strength. Women are very good listeners and negotiations are not just about speaking, they are about listening. Women have an advantage over men, because they can hear between the lines and use that to get what they want in any settlement.

Believe in yourself.

Be prepared on your subject. Read Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William L Ury. It’s very helpful and every woman should read it.

Use your USP — that is your intuition and persuasive skills.

Forget about being a people pleaser.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

During negotiations, look the person in the eye. Don’t be desperate to speak first. Listen and think, before you speak. Be prepared, but not overly prepared.

Majella Foley-Friel, workplace mediator

Women can be so worried about how a person may react to something they say, that they will not say something.

They may shy away from expressing their needs, as they don’t want to alienate the other.

They can also be very indirect, not clearly express what they feel about something, or they will not clearly outline their reasons for something they propose.

Women sometimes need to be more forthright — they tiptoe around things rather than come right out and say what they think.


Pick your times to negotiate and don’t get involved if you are overly emotional or angry.

Explore issues in a way the other can hear and highlight the benefits for them in agreeing to your proposal.

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