Gender Inequality: Are You Paid Less Than A Man?

Closing the gap in gender inequality has to start somewhere – perhaps with salaries… We share expert tips on the best ways to boost your confidence to ask for a raise and ensure you’re not paid less.

gender inequality in the workplace

The pay gap between men and women, with women being paid less than men, across the world is estimated to be at around 20%, with women drawing the short straw.

Recent surveys in the US showed that for every dollar a man earns, a woman is paid only 80c. In South Africa, the landscape, sadly, is no different and women are paid much less than men.

High-profile women like actress Jennifer Lawrence and tennis ace Serena Williams have also noticed that men get the bigger salaries – so the truth is, millions of us are missing out.

What does the law say about women being paid less?

The Employment Equity Act was amended in August 2014 to cover ‘equal pay for equal work’, and the labour minister set guidelines on putting this into practice. These guidelines aim to ensure that differences on the employment front, including pay, don’t occur due to gender (and other variables).

They also suggest companies do annual job evaluation assessments to ensure fair pay for their employees, but this isn’t a requirement by law.

What are you worth?

Chat to recruitment agencies in your sector, look at job ads to see what’s being offered, and see how your salary measures up. Check out the My Wage website for more.

What are your rights?

Find out more about your workplace’s responsibility – as well as your own – when it comes to your salary at

Sue Unerman works as the chief transformation officer at an advertising firm and is co-author of The Glass Wall (Profile Books), with Kathryn Jacob.

Be ambitious. If a boss asks a senior woman how things are going, she will say: “All fine, all under control.” A male colleague would say: “It’s fine now because there was a huge crisis and I solved it.”

No wonder women don’t get noticed. Your boss is not a mind reader, so you have to tell them about your achievements.

Use your anger. Research shows that angry men gain influence, but angry women lose influence. So learn to use your anger in a cold, calculating way.

Instead of bursting into tears of frustration while you point out that the man who sits next to you earns way more, use the energy of that anger to come back with a strategy to get what you want. If they say no, try a different strategy.

Practise in the mirror. When I was embarrassed about asking for a promotion, I practised. I wrote a script and took deep breaths in the ladies’ room first. Also, use evidence to support your statements. So say, “I am the person who gets things done,” and then give an example.

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Aletta Raju is head of employee relations at a financial services company, and also runs their in-house women’s forum.

Address it collectively. Use the right forums to raise issues such as pay inequality. If your workplace has a women’s forum, address it there; if not, set one up. We have more leverage if there’s consistency in how our collective voices are heard.

Be smart about a grievance. Be pragmatic about the process. If you feel you’re not being treated fairly with regards to equal pay for equal work, get a sense of your worth by researching pay scales online – many of which take into account an individual’s education, skills and experience.

If you feel your salary isn’t on par, chat to your HR representative.

gender inequality pay gap

Corinne Mills is author of the bestselling book, Career Coach (Trotman Publishing)

Find out the going rate. Never go for a job unless you know what the pay is likely to be. Even if the ad says ‘salary negotiable’, they must have a budget in mind.

Ask the recruitment firm or HR department, so you’re not in danger of underselling yourself. Most women avoid conflict, so they’re likely to accept what they’re offered rather than negotiate. Look online for similar jobs to see what the going rate is.

Avoid negativity. Rather than saying ‘I’m overworked’ and ‘You don’t pay me enough’, tell your boss how committed you are; how well you’re doing with a new project. Then add you’ve not had a pay rise for two years. Don’t threaten to leave or say you’ve had an offer from another firm.

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Kathryn Jacob is the CEO of an advertising company and co-author of The Glass Wall

Stop apologising. Women tend to feel apologetic when they’re asking for a pay rise. They say things like, “Sorry, can I have five minutes,” and then they talk quickly to get it over and done with.

So make an appointment at a quiet time, stop saying sorry – you have nothing to apologise for – and present a business case for why you deserve a pay rise. Be matter-of-fact. You can’t argue with the facts.

Get used to rejection. Remember, it doesn’t matter if your boss says ‘No’. Simply ask your boss what needs to change in the future for it to be a ‘Yes’ and ask when you should come back again. In three or six months’ time, make an appointment and put in another request.

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Don’t take it personally. Many women who are turned down for a pay rise or promotion will often think ‘They hate me’ and ‘I should never mention it again’, and then they worry that they have ruined their relationship with their boss.

Yet pay negotiations are about your value to the organisation, not about your value as an individual. Remember that it isn’t personal.

Professor Anita Bosch is a master HR practitioner and researches women at work at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Find your voice. Women are often socialised to think they shouldn’t voice their needs. If you feel you have reason to enter into a discussion about your salary, or you’re ready for a promotion, you must speak up.

Your boss isn’t likely to bring up a pay rise if you’ve never voiced your need for one.

gender inequality business meeting

Do your research first. Do your homework before speaking to your boss. What skills do you have; what unique value do you bring; what’s your worth in relation to the rest of the team?

Analyse the lay of the land – know what people doing the same work in other companies earn. Create a proposal that your boss can’t overlook.

Time waits for no woman. Women over the age of 40 aren’t always paid more. It depends on how hard you’ve worked at ensuring your salary remains relevant.

If you haven’t asked for pay raises in the past, the accumulative effect over time could place you in a less favourable situation compared to younger colleagues.

If you’ve been employed by the same company for over five years, your salary may be at risk of losing track with new entrants’ salaries. Engage with your boss sooner rather than later.

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