Written by Annabelle Williams
“A person earning £10 an hour does not have any less worth than someone who has a job paying £500 a day.” Financial journalist Annabelle Williams explains why it’s pointless to equate your self-worth with your salary.
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“In nearly all developed countries, women have less money saved than men at every stage of their lives,” writes financial journalist Annabelle Williams in her new book, Why Women Are Poorer Than Men And What We Can Do About It, in which she sets out to get to the bottom of why the modern world is rigged unfairly in men’s favour.
In the extract below, she explores why women have been sold the lie that their self-worth is tied up in their salary and how we can dispel this damaging myth.
‘Know your worth’ has become a catchphrase used by female mentors advising other women on furthering their careers and personal finances.
I checked three such guides aimed at women and each of them advised some variant of ‘Ask for what you truly believe you are worth’, while there are frequent events called ‘Know Your Worth for Equal Pay’ and ‘How to Know Your Worth and Negotiate’. Tickets to one five-hour ‘money makeover’ event which takes place regularly in London cost up to £169.
A person earning £10 an hour does not have any less worth than someone who has a job paying £500 a day.
Millions of people do jobs that are vital to society but are not highly paid. The wage that someone earns at any given time is a reflection of society’s attitude to different kinds of work, and on a personal level it is the result of hundreds of different circumstances that accumulate over a lifetime.
Having more money makes life more materially comfortable and increases the opportunities for the individual and their family. It removes the stress of want and the pain of seeing loved ones go without. For those reasons, trying to earn more money is a good idea. But on the whole this ‘know your worth through your salary’ message speaks only to a certain kind of woman, those working in large private companies awash with cash (where there’s scope for negotiating bonuses and perks) or women who already have a large amount of freedom and choice in their working lives.
Many women are not in a position to negotiate their salary or move freely between jobs. In many organizations change is slow, budgets are tightly constrained and there is much less scope for changing job descriptions, haggling over perks and being rewarded for assertiveness.
Equating your salary with your worth is foolish. You will never earn ‘what you are worth’ because your salary is just the amount you are earning at a certain point in time and is unrelated to your worth.
Even if you settle on a figure that you think reflects your capabilities or experience, you still need to find someone willing to pay it. The daily rate for a lawyer, surgeon or psychotherapist is ultimately set by how many such specialists are working in a particular area and the demand for their skills.
There may be times when an employer or client thinks you’re marvellous and decides to pay you a high sum. Don’t let it go to your head; conversely, if you receive a lower salary for your next job, it does not mean your worth has declined – and neither does an employer’s decision to make you redundant.
Why Women Are Poorer Than Men And What We Can Do About It by Annabelle Williams (£9.99, Penguin Michael Joseph) is available now.
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