Powering up your career

Powering up your career


Recently, we talked about how businesses can power up their diversity action plans to make meaningful progress on creating an inclusive workplace.

So, we thought it’s worth talking about what women can do to power up their own career and get a seat at the table.

Even with businesses’ adopting proactive action-plans to tackle gender inequality head-on, it’s a concrete fact that women earn less than men do. Whilst the true value of the gender pay gap is unknown, most estimates by labour economists when comparing equally qualified people doing the same job is around 10-20%.

The main question remains: what’s stalling progress for women at work?

Powering up your career

Women do ask, they don’t get.


One common assumption is that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries. Yet, recent research shows, holding background factors constant, women ask for a promotion just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked for a promotion got it 15% of the time, whilst men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. Although it’s a 5% difference this adds up over a lifetime.

Another assumption is that women act less assertively in negotiations in fear of upsetting the relationship with their manager or peers. It’s not always easy to ask for that promotion or challenge decisions made by senior colleagues. And understanding the unwritten ‘code’ of accessing career defining opportunities is not always straightforward.

Yet, within the same research this assumption was also analysed, and no evidence was shown in the data to back up this claim. Instead, women and men equally say that they do not ask for a promotion because of concern for their work relationships.

So, it’s a misconception that women are less likely to ask for a promotion. Likewise, there’s evidence that things are beginning to change in the labour market. Younger women appear statistically indistinguishable – even in ‘getting’ promoted – from young men. Suggesting that perhaps negotiating behaviour through the years is beginning to change. Yet, only time will tell whether things are really beginning to transform in the labour market.

Powering up your career (2)

The last time you earned a promotion, who promoted you?


Research shows that women and men are not promoted at the same rate. Whilst, women and men tend to work at similar levels at the beginning of their career. Over the course of their career, men move into higher roles at a significantly higher rate than women. New findings show that men are likely to be promoted by men, and women are more likely to be promoted by women. This inclination of managers to promote those who are like themselves is a clear example of an affinity bias and is perpetuating the gender pay gap.

In 2013, one of the Big Four accountancy firms, PwC, admitted that the firm’s progress on closing its gender gap was “disappointingly low”. One reason cited for this was that people continued to promote in their own image and with men holding most of the managerial positions, women are unfairly looked over.

Out of the Big Four, PwC is in last place for mean hourly pay. Women make up 48% of the PwC’s workforce but are paid 43.8% less than their male peers, including partners, when bonuses are added.

Recently, PwC has stated that its recruitment and selection process is one of the key areas for addressing gender equality. It has announced plans to end all-male interview panels, examine how ‘career defining roles’ are awarded and ban male-only candidate shortlists. Likewise, PwC has started to assign progression coaches/ mentors – usually partners – to work with women and ethnic minorities employees to help develop their careers.

The steps to success


So how do you go about negotiating your workplace culture and driving forward your own career and personal development?

Our advice is to adopt a structured approach:

  1. Understand the current barriers to your career progression.
  2. Understand the unwritten ‘code’ by which people progress within your organisation – i.e. access to career-defining opportunities.
  3. Find out how to identify and access these opportunities – harness the power of sponsors, coaches and mentors.
  4. Develop your influencing skills; learn how to constructively challenge colleagues who are not supporting your progression.
  5. Gain feedback and insights from others to continue progress and develop.

Individual coaching is a great way to formulate a plan to advance your career development. Group coaching can also help women support each other in developing influencing skills, the ability to constructively challenge and provide each other with peer support.

EW Group have a proven track record of delivering tailored executive coaching programmes that produce positive outcomes for individuals and organisations alike. Get in touch to find out how we can help you.

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