Not asking for what you are worth in your first job can cost you hundreds of thousands of shillings through your career.
In April 2013, having served as an intern for close to a year for a big corporate, Janet was pleased to be offered a permanent position as an accountant.
“I jumped at the opportunity without second thoughts,” she says.
And why not? With nearly all her graduating class cohort out tarmacking, she felt lucky to have landed such an opportunity.
“My starting salary was Sh60,000,” she says. “It would be reviewed every two years depending on my performance.”
At that point, Janet felt she got a good deal. But two years into the job, the reality of the cost of living in Nairobi hit home.
“To start with, my net earnings were meagre. I couldn’t save from what I was earning. Practically I lived hand-to-mouth,” she says.
ALSO READ: How to prepare for an online interview
Then she got to learn what her peers at work took home and her jaw dropped.
“That is when I knew I had sold myself short. The value I brought to the company was far greater than what I was being paid,” she says.
Women all over the world get paid less than men for the same job rendered.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), on average, women across the world are paid just 63 per cent of what men earn.
The 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, also by WEF, says a Kenyan woman is paid Sh55 for every Sh100 paid to a man for similar work.
In the private sector, the median salary for women is 83 per cent that of men. In the informal sector it is 60 per cent that of men.
At NGOs, the median wage for women is 34 per cent that of men.
ALSO READ: Six challenges of being a working mother
Governments aren’t not faring well either. The median salary for female employees in national government is 79 per cent that of men and in the county governments it is 56 per cent. For those in constitutional commissions, it is 55 per cent.
However, all is not lost, some corporates and international organisations have ratified policies that have ensured that men and women earn similar salaries for the same job.
But there are only so many such employers around. The question we are asking is, are women to blame, and what can they do to be paid salaries commensurate to their value?
1. State your value and stick to it: In most job interviews today, recruiters will ask: ‘what do you wish to be paid?’
Emmanuel Mutuma, the CEO of Brighter Monday, a job recruitment firm, postulates that women, mostly because of culture, have been conditioned to be less assertive.
“If you know your value, do not be afraid to quote it when asked,” he says. “If it is Sh200,000, say it.”
Despair, he says, sometimes plays a role in a job seeker quoting a lesser figure. But, what if your employer would be willing to pay the actual figure you would like to quote? You would never know.
2. Stop being humble, bosses expect a little haggling:
Joanne Mwangi – the CEO of PMS Group Limited says women undersell themselves sometimes as they fear coming off as too aggressive.
Her advice to women is to stop being the ‘nice girl’ as per men’s expectations.
“Stop being humble and modest,” she says. “In the corporate world, competition is cutthroat.”
“You are your best salesperson: Explain to your employer your qualities – all of them. Explain to your employer the value you bring onto the table and why they ought to pay you for that value.
“Make them understand that while they will be paying you as per your value, your work will result in far better earnings for the organisation,” Joanne says.
3. Have your numbers right and prove them: If you have been holding a position and you want a raise to match your value, prove it to your boss, offers Doreen Mueke, Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.
According to Doreen, the fastest and easiest way to ask for a raise would be to prove that you deserve it.
“Go to your boss with your Key Performance Indicators. Show them, for instance, that while the company expected you to produce value x, you were able to produce x + 1,” she says. Men will always do these even when they are far from meeting targets set for them by the company.
During end of year appraisals, arm yourself with proof that you performed over and above expectations.
4. Do not make it about you: Assuming, today, you discovered that you earn 50 per cent of what a male colleague in the position does, there will be real temptation to use the information in asking for a raise.
Doreen says this would be making the process personal. “It is wrong to make it personal. It is not about you but about your value,” she says.
“It has to be based on merit: you should deserve it. You cannot ask to be paid more simply because a colleague earns more than you do,” she says.
5. Do your homework about the organisation: Given, every employee would love to earn a million shillings (or more) a month – regardless of the value you are bringing in.
But not all employers have a budget to match such a salary. Before going in for the interview, Joanne says, do your homework on finding out more about the company.
“Find out who is the highest paid in the company and who is the least paid as well as what they do,” she says.
Find out if the company is able to pay what you want. This way, if you go through the interview, you can ask for a salary within your employer’s range.
6. Acquire more skills: The main reason you could be earning less compared to your colleagues could be that you are not as qualified as those who earn more.
For instance, if your skills are at diploma level, why should your employer pay you the same as someone whose skills are at Masters level?
Up-skilling is also a great way to get your employer pay you what you are worth. Education never stops, so they say. According to Sheila Birgen, Entrepreneurship Director at I-Hub in Nairobi, gaining more skills is absolutely imperative in a fast changing world where more and more jobs are becoming obsolete.
Gaining new skills, Doreen says, can be used to justify a raise or a promotion – both of which would mean improved earnings.
“Study for short courses with specific skills. Go for a higher university degree. Seek to better yourself in the labour market,” she says.
7. Get an accomplished female mentor: There are women who have made it and earn as much as men do or even more.
According to Doreen, being mentored by a more accomplished female would improve one’s understanding on the workings of the corporate world.
“Learn from women who have paved their way to the top,” she says.
If you can, read books by accomplished women: drawing wisdom from their career experiences and accomplishments.
8. Negotiation is gender-based, be prepared: Research shows salary negotiation is trickier for women as they are often penalised for asking for more. During negotiation, watch your bosses’ body language carefully. If your boss’s body language shifts, adjust yours accordingly but never be timid. Don’t shy away from blowing your trumpet.
9. If all fails, seek greener pastures: We all have ‘last resort’ options. When all else fails, what next?
If you have tried everything but nothing still works, it may be a signal that you need to move on.
The average Kenyan is only a pay check away from economic trouble. Hence, resigning in huff would be classic frying pan-to-fire move.
As you work for your current employer, start to think of moving to a different employer who would match your value, says Doreen.
Wherever you go next, be sure that they have HR policies on equality for all staff. This improves the chances that you will earn the same as your male work mates.
Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Eve Digital Telegram channel HERE.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke