Blog > Debates > “The next time you look for a job, add £6,500 to your ambitions.”

“The next time you look for a job, add £6,500 to your ambitions.”

Lucy Mangan dives into totaljobs' gender pay gap research.

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Well, well – AREN’T we in a pickle, ladies? And quite an impoverished one, unfortunately. It is clear from the latest totaljobs research that inequality of pay, based on what shape your genitals are, remains – absurdly, but stubbornly – baked into every layer of the system.

It begins at application level. According to these most recent findings, female graduates habitually apply for lower-paid jobs than their male counterparts – a difference of up to £2,000 accrues right off the bat.

Then, when it comes to negotiating a salary for the job applied for and awarded, 75% of women say they don’t feel comfortable asking for a higher figure – a sentiment that perhaps explains why their average salary expectations hover round the £25,500 mark while men’s start at £32,000.

That’s quite some mental distance, and one that can easily translate over a career into far more than the £6,500 you (didn’t) begin with. And that’s already a chunk of change worth having. You know, for shoes and cupcakes and all the other things we need.

Opportunities to close the gap thereafter are not always taken. Only a quarter of women (compared to 41% of men) say they feel comfortable asking for pay rises, and last year women got an average raise of £1,377 compared to their male colleagues’ £1,764.

When it comes to bonuses – surprise! Fewer women receive them (38% versus 43% of men) and when they do, they tend to be lower than men’s; £1,128 compared to £2,059.

What to do about all these penis premiums being paid? What to do about this endemic and pervasive unfairness?


The first temptation, of course, is to simply shout at women – individually or en masse if you can herd them into a big enough room together – and tell them to stop applying for the lower-paid jobs, or being afraid to ask for a pay rise or a bonus and so on. The problem with that solution is that a) it’s a bit ad hoc and b) these women aren’t stupid.

I know because I’m a woman myself AND I meet a lot of others in my daily life. We are cowed by the notion of asking for more because we are brought up from birth not to make a fuss, not to take up more than what others have decreed is our fair share of anything, and to put other people first.

And men, by and large, have been brought up to expect this from us too. So even if we do overcome our early training – so early that by the time you’re entering the workplace it feels like instinct – and ask for more, d’you know what?

It doesn’t play well. You are doing something bold and transgressive. It may be absolutely the right thing – morally, legally, ethically, any other kind of –ly – but in the not unlikely event that you are asking it of an older, non-progressive man, you may do yourself more harm than good. Women know this. This is why change is hard.

Totaljobs research on more than 4,700 employees and 145 employers shows that women employees typically expect to be paid £6,562 less than men across average salaries. Find out more.

But! This is money we’re talking about and money is important. It is power, it is freedom and it is vital. So, change is very much what we need. How do we bring it about?


First of all by informing ourselves. Totaljobs’ research showed that 26% of women (31% of men, so even they’ve still room for improvement in this matter) are unaware of how their company makes decisions about salary and pay rises. This is an entirely alterable state of affairs for anyone.

Second, by informing others. 58% of men believe men and women receive equal pay. They could be gently disabused of this notion. Some will chortle up their sleeves in delight at still being on the right side of the equation, but the majority hopefully will not.

You can seek out dissatisfied peers. Nearly a quarter of women believe that their male equivalents are being paid more. That’s a lot of workplace tension. Offer your employer – you are so kind, so thoughtful! – a simple way of defusing it…

Ah yes – employers. 68% of them have a gender pay equality policy. Whether all of these are the sturdy bulwarks against inequality you’d hope for, or more of a sop towards current concerns, I leave it to your own conscience and experience to decide.

Only 34% of employers carry out salary reviews across gender to make sure no discrepancies are arising. Again, not all of these may be foolproof systems.

On both sides of the boss/worker divide we and they can, and should, do more. My fellow female employees can take the figures above as a useful set of starting points.

The next time you look for a new job, add another £6,500 to your ambitions. Sit with that new number until it starts to feel natural. Because it is. Because you’re worth it.

Read the results of totaljobs salary surveys on more than 4,700 employees and 145 employers. Download the full report here.

Want to read more about gender and equality in the workplace? You might also like these interviews…

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. James Williams Saturday, 12 Nov, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    I hope it is possible to have a discussion about this issue which has been prevalent for years and has been approached mostly with hostility rather than civility pitting one gender against the other.

    That’s the “vibe” I got from this article too.

    Researchers (of both genders as if that should make a difference) have repeatedly declared that one is not comparing apples with apples when the figure of a 20+% pay gap is used.

    This approach categorizes employees too broadly and ignores many other differences that have a profound effect on income, career progression, bonuses etc.

    For example, it doesn’t take into account people’s choices about hours worked, choices about which job they would prefer to work in and settles on it being just pure discrimination about genitalia.

    This is not my idea this is the result of work by professors in economics such as Prof Claudia Goldin at Harvard University.

    When taking into account the differences in lifecycle choices a profound effect is seen with the claimed 23% gender pay gap reducing to something under 5%. This is not zero but it is much much less than is repeatedly claimed in articles such as this one.

    Does the author really think that if she had a male doppelganger that he would be paid 20+% more than her?

    In today’s world there is scant evidence to back up this claim.
    There are even laws in liberal democracies prohibiting it.

    Wouldn’t the the employment ratio of men to women would be pretty skewed to the cheaper workforce in that scenario?

    Whilst the evidence shows that the pay gap is below 5% in some jobs, non existent in other jobs, 27% in others and even negative in some jobs (I’m thinking the difference between male and female models) articles such as this one reduce the complexity to simple discrimination due to differences in genitalia.

    I’m not suggesting motivations behind this article I’m just puzzled by the same thin arguments perpetually repeating.

    It’s not because “women don’t want to work hard jobs” or “aren’t as clever as men” or whatever stupid straw man is offered, the reasons are far more complex and real.

    I remember listening to this podcast earlier this year and I followed the links to the reports to look at the actual evidence rather than the hyperbole:

  2. Sarahfrakes Monday, 14 Nov, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Hi there I’m Sarah I’m really struggling with money at moment and it is making me depressed I just can’t find the right job atall and need help , I can’t afford my bills which is making me ill .

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