Mailing List

Sign up to receive the latest news from make:good
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Pay women their worth

9 March 2021

For International Women’s Day 2021 we’re featuring some fantastic women on our channels who are doing really inspiring things. Keeping with the 2021 IWD theme #ChooseToChallenge, we’ve asked them to present a challenge they would like to pose for a more equal world. For this month’s blog, I thought I’d do the same.

My challenge for peers, clients, collaborators, the industry and wider society is this: in whatever sphere you have influence, pay women their worth.

In 2019 when I was on shared parental leave and working two days a week, I was asked to pitch for a couple of pieces of work. With really limited time to pitch, I submitted just a fee and methodology for both. The person leading one of the pitches wrote back to tell me they had increased our day rates because they thought I had under costed; as they were looking across all fees on the project, they could see the disparity. It really struck me as a moment of generosity and information sharing; I made a note to always do the same thing whenever I was in a position to do so. For example, I recently wrote to a freelancer asking them to increase their rate because I felt that she was asking for less than she deserved and I was in a position to pay more. This isn’t entirely altruistic; if I work with a person or company I like, I want them to stay in business so we can keep doing business. Underpaying isn’t going to support their longevity.

Using a less shining example, I once pitched for a project where the lead organisation clearly hadn’t given a thought to the pay disparities between the different project teams. They (accidentally) sent me a clarification spreadsheet where I could see everybody’s rates – I realised that my rate as a director was lower than the intern at the lead organisation. Why didn’t the person looking at these numbers say something to me? With the knowledge they had of the overall budget available, why didn’t they use their position of power to help me know my own and make:good’s worth? It’s similar to the gender pay gap; women aren’t actively choosing to work for less – they just aren’t always aware that more is on offer.

According to data from the ONS, the gender pay gap among full-time employees stands at 8.9% – a decline of only 0.6% since 2012. That’s before you start delving into how gender intersects with other factors such as ethnicity and disability. The pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on women, which will have set us back even more. When it comes to self-employment, a 2016 study found that regardless of the parity in education, work experience, number of hours worked or occupation, women earn considerably less than men.

We talk about knowing your worth but this can be tricky with fees, as the budget available can vary substantially between projects. We need to move away from being embarrassed to talk about money. If we don’t have a benchmark or point of comparison to work with, being in a position to know what we should be charging is a challenge. To borrow a quote from Caitlin Pearce, head of the Freelancers Union: “Creating channels for pay transparency is essential for independent contractors who establish their own rates and must constantly negotiate contracts with clients.”

The key learning for me is that you can’t always know your worth if you don’t have the context – calls for us to not undersell ourselves feel futile if we don’t have more transparency.

How about we put the onus on those who have access to the knowledge to spot disparities and the power to address them; at the very least, simply sharing that information can help to make sure everyone has the same ability to demand their worth. That includes practising what we preach and exercising the same within our own spheres of influence.