Here's why women need to take control of their careers earlier

06 August 2018 - 10:04 By South African Reward Association
Lindiwe Sebesho, Master Reward Specialist and executive committee member of the South African Reward Association.
Lindiwe Sebesho, Master Reward Specialist and executive committee member of the South African Reward Association.
Image: Supplied

Other than the structural issues our society faces, one factor that has been fueling the existing gender pay gap in South Africa is the educational and career choices young women make.

The World Economic Forum says the pay gap is not simply because men and women are paid differently for the same job. Women tend to work in industries with lower average pay‚ rather than high-income areas such as finance or technology.

Lindiwe Sebesho, Master Reward Specialist and executive committee member of the South African Reward Association (SARA), says women have to empower themselves with knowledge about the skills demand patterns that attract more pay.

They need to use this information to their advantage when they choose their study areas and eventually make their career choices.

“It is also about understanding remuneration practices, especially when it comes to the pay gap issues. Progress has been made from a legislative perspective to ensure that equal work gets equal pay but most employees, especially females, may not have enough information about this.”

Do the research

Researching and reaching out to associations like SARA, who have large volumes of information on pay practices in different sectors, is part of how women can empower themselves.

A good understanding of how remuneration packages are structured in both financial and non-financial benefit terms is key in ensuring that one understands job worth and one’s own package in relation to that.

Once again women should have a general sense of what the benchmark remuneration packages are for the jobs they are considering. This will help them determine whether they are being treated fairly.

Remuneration packages in many industries include short and long term incentives that are usually linked to company and individual performance conditions. “It is important to understand how these are calculated so that one can contribute optimally towards the success of the company in order to influence same.”

Sebesho says the non-financial part of the package does not put money in your pocket, but it does carry weight when the total package is considered.

This includes company benefits such as pension fund contributions, medical aid schemes, the number of paid annual leave days, maternity leave days, access to educational bursary schemes, etc.

Although some of these benefits are legislated under the Basic Conditions of Employment Ac, many companies enhance their employee value propositions by offering more than what is legislated. For instance, women planning to start a family should consider what a company’s maternity leave policy is, over and above the financial remuneration elements.

“It certainly becomes an attractive offering that one must consider as part of their remuneration package when a company pays over and above the standard three months for maternity leave,” Sebesho remarks.

Track your progress

Landing the perfect job or career is only the first step towards a successful career. To ensure that you are recognised and paid fairly for the work you do, it is important that one understands and optimises the performance management processes that the company follows to clarify expected deliverables.

“Make sure that whatever you are supposed to deliver is measurable and easy to substantiate in order to illustrate the contribution you are making,” Sebesho advises. “Keep track of your progress and achievements.”

Talk about your success

Women tend to be too modest about what they are capable of. “Communicate your success and ensure that people who should know are fully aware of how you are delivering against your goals and therefore contributing to the company’s success.”

Is it a competitive world out there and standing out by empowering yourself with knowledge that will help you negotiate for a promotion, increase your pay or ensure fair pay is key. Many women assume that if they work hard, somebody will notice and recognise them,” says Sebesho. It does not happen – success is partly up to you and you have to take charge of it.

“You have to sell yourself. You have to use every opportunity possible to display your achievements and how things can be done even better.”

In this way women can contribute towards making sure that the pay gap shrinks rather than grows.