Gender pay-gap: women undervalue their own contributions, study finds

Expectations play a part in unequal rewards system – and women appear less pushy when it comes to negotiating a salary

WOMEN often find themselves on the wrong end of the gender pay divide, but recent research suggests that they themselves are asking for lower pay than their male counterparts for identical senior roles.

The issue is back in the news; in fact, it never went away, with Britain’s national broadcaster making headlines for all the wrong reasons in a recent report in The Guardian newspaper (

A separate study by Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR) of more than 6,000 senior executives earning at least £70,000 per annum found a 25 percent difference between the salaries expected by male and female non-executive directors. Males surveyed were looking for an annual salary of £106,935, while women going for the same NED roles expected just £83,125.

The data from the report Women, Pay And Progress shows that the problem is widespread, with men’s salary expectations higher than women’s for 10 of the 13 senior/board-level roles studied.  Men pursuing customer service head roles on average expect to be paid £93,833. In contrast, females competing for the same role expect £75,114 – a 22 percent difference.

There’s a 14.5 percent difference for financial director roles, while for chief operations officers and sales directors the pay gap is 13 percent and 12 percent respectively.

“We’re not saying that companies coming to us with senior roles to fill expect to pay women less than men,” explains NJR CEO Graham Oates. “The differences we’ve recorded are the salary expectations set by the candidates themselves.

“When gender pay-gap statistics were made public for the first time earlier this year many argued that the major factor behind the disparity was that there are more men than women in senior positions; the challenge was simply to help more women reach the top.  However, our research suggests that even when women get into senior roles a major pay gap can still prevail.”

Things are less marked for managing director or CEO roles (2.5 percent), senior change managers (7.5 percent), facilities managers and marketing directors (both three percent). But the gap is there, and every time it is in favour of men.

There are a few roles where there is virtual parity: HR, supply chain management and IT programme management.  And with chief technology officer roles, the difference actually tips in favour of women, with an eight percent differential. These are rare exceptions to the rule.

“It’s fair to assume that the senior executives we studied are basing their salary expectations on their most recent roles,” said Oates. “If that’s the case, then what appears to be happening is that women somehow find themselves on a career trajectory which culminates in them being on a pay scale which is out of kilter by the time they reach a senior level. This needs to be addressed.

“The various bodies looking to tackle the pay gap issue need to perhaps consider how young women early in their careers value themselves within the labour market, and what happens to their pay, career path and opportunities as they progress. We need to understand how things get out of step.”

The study also looked at the day-rate expectations of senior interim managers and found that while the gap isn’t as significant, there is still a sizeable disparity for eight of the 13 senior interim roles studied.

The biggest gap is a 15 percent difference between male and female interim non-exec directors (in favour of men), and double-digit differences for interim senior change manager and customer service roles.

IT appears to be an area where the tables are turned, with female interim CTOs and IT project/programme managers expecting a significantly higher day rate than their male counterparts.

“Hopefully, by flagging these figures, we are adding more insight to the debate and drive to eradicate this gender pay imbalance,” says Oates.