How to have better conversations about your salary.

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Four top tips to overcome gender bias that are helpful even if you are not a woman.

This blog is part of a week-long series that looked at the identification of the problem on Monday, tried to understand it in context on Tuesday and will today look at addressing it. Thursday will look at what managers who have noticed this challenge in their teams can do.

If you are paid less than your colleague and you are both on equal footing regarding skills and qualifications; it might be time for a conversation about your salary. I have put together my top four tips; some are designed to overcome specific gender issues; some are general; all are potentially helpful no matter who you are.

It is incredibly important to remember that discrepancy in salaries is rarely malicious. Its usually people not noticing how subtle nuances have affected their thinking. Therefore the better we can prepare for those nuances the more chance we have of achieving the outcome we desire.


Challenge. Sometimes when asked to account for a discrepancy, a manager might reveal concerns about your capabilities that might not have been raised before. It is not necessarily a malicious move; your manager may have forgotten to mention it or even thought that they were protecting you by keeping it hidden.

Action. Prepare yourself for this eventuality. Consider anything that could be levied against you. Then evidence how this was either not your responsibility or you how you have worked (or will work) to improve your skill set since the incident. Remind your manager everyone fails, its what we learn that important.

Silver lining. The ability to reflect and learn from that reflection is genuinely one of the most powerful skills we can learn. I find the more I practice reflection, the better I can handle both criticism and failure.


Challenge. It's common for people to judge men on where they are going and women on what they have done. Resulting in women needing to provide evidence of capability before they are even considered as a candidate, while men just need to look the part.

Action. Have that evidence ready, and take into account how your manager best responds to information. If that might mean recording the productivity of your subcontractors, the number of retained clients of case studies of your successful projects. Pay attention to both the style of information that works for your manager, and the targets you are expected to meet.

Silver lining. You will develop skills that help you notice how people disseminate information as well as building a portfolio of your work.