While this may seem simple and obvious, the decision you make about work–life balance will include financial considerations such as expenditure on childcare, travel and so on. However, you may also be influenced by your earning potential in different sectors and jobs. One of the things to be aware of is the gender pay gap. Of course, it is illegal to pay women less for the same work as a man, but the difference (in percentage terms) between the average earnings of women and men working full-time in 2010 was 15.5 per cent for hourly earnings excluding overtime and 21.5 per cent for gross weekly earnings.
The difference in the mean hourly earnings of men who work full-time and women who work part-time (the part-time women’s pay gap) was also narrower in 2010 than in any previous year, at 34.5 per cent (Perfect, 2011). The difference in earnings is associated with a range of factors. Direct discrimination is only a minor factor with a notable problem being the way women’s competences are valued compared to men’s: shelf stacking (more likely done by men) can be more highly paid than supermarket checkout work (likely to be done by women). Another cause is segregation in the labour market.
The money you earn impacts on the choices you can make about paying fr childcare or other help and the distance you can travel to work. For women who are returning to STEM industries, choices are further constrained by the location and availability of suitable jobs.
It is known that one reason for the gender pay gap is that women are less likely to request raises or negotiate their salary when they begin a job, and therefore are generally more likely to financially undervalue their skills. So it’s important that when you begin applying for jobs, you will need to think about what salary you are aiming for and be prepared to negotiate with a potential employer about your pay.
Next week, you will look at mentors and other people who can offer you support. A mentor might be a good person to talk to if you have reservations or questions about asking for a pay increase.