23 Aug 2014

Salary....the gender gap?

I've been reading a lot about the gender pay gap.  According to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), whilst the gap has been significantly reduced since the 1970s, wages still differ dramatically between the sexes after the age of 30.

Now, I'm only really qualified to make observations on salaries in the marketing sector.  My experience is that we don't follow the trend. Particularly in advertising and marketing agencies, salaries are largely banded and companies go to great lengths to ensure that individuals doing the same role (i.e. level) are earning roughly the same.  A person's sex is largely as irrelevant as it should be.  However, one observation that I have made, time and again, is that men negotiate harder!  

One area of the recruitment process I focus on is managing salary expectations.  Clients expect a clear understanding of remuneration expectations from a candidate and it's often my role to help guide in terms of what is reasonable and what is outrageous.  It's a bit of a balancing act to keep everyone happy.  If subsequently, upon receiving an offer, a candidate changes their salary demands, it tends to upset the client and they don't like haggling with someone who has moved their goalposts.

What I've increasingly found is that it tends to be men, much more frequently than women, who increase their demands at the last minute.  While this is a generalisation, more often than not, women will ask for a certain salary and if offered that salary, will be happy to accept.  Men, on the other hand, nine times out of ten, ask for more.  Occasionally they succeed but not often.

Rather than a pure focus on salary, women are often looking at other benefits and this can mean they sacrifice a little salary in order to take up a role closer to home or with more flexible working conditions.  I'm not being disloyal to the sisterhood but do find there is also a case of women, after the age of 30, prioritising other things (most commonly family) and, while wanting a decent salary, not necessarily being desperate to continue clambering up the career ladder.  Whereas the alpha males continue their drive and ambition for world domination - and big salaries.

Ultimately, most agencies have fixed salary bandings - they know staff talk about money and don't want disgruntled employees who find out they are on less than their colleagues.  Yes, salaries can vary from agency to agency, but by and large salary bands for say an Account Manager or Account Director will be roughly the same across all agencies. It's certainly not true to say that male Account Directors earn more than their female counterparts.  Overall in our marketing sector, I don't see much salary discrimination.  The sector is actually (particularly in client services) far more female heavy than most industries, and on a secondary note, men can possibly be less favoured through a perception that women are more organised and better at multi-tasking (I couldn't possibly comment).

Where we do follow the gender trend of other industries is with less women in board level positions across the agency world although having said that, there are several notable Manchester agencies with successful women at the helm (women with families too). But very often I see women unable to return to the workplace following maternity due to a lack of part time opportunities.  More flexible working is coming through but I can see that this is where men will continue to secure high profile and visible roles over their female counterparts, thereby taking the promotions and salary rises that often elude women.

I'm not sure I've said anything particularly new or radical here, I thought it might comfort a few people to know that just because you're a man, you're not automatically entitled to more money and actually across the North, because agencies are closely managing their staff overheads, there is actually very little variation in salary and it is mostly based on merit - surely a healthy sign.