Women 'go wrong way about getting promotion'

Emma Woollacott
BETW72 Young tired business woman with headache sitting at computer in workplace - night overtime work  overtime; night; depress
BETW72 Young tired business woman with headache sitting at computer in workplace - night overtime work overtime; night; depress

Women often go the wrong way about trying to get a promotion or pay rise, according to research from the Open University.

Last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women shouldn't actually ask for more money, but instead should wait to be rewarded: "knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along".

It's not much of a career strategy, and Nadella later apologised for his remarks. But, given that British women still earn around one-fifth less than men for doing the same job, just how should we go about angling for more?

Well, not the way we generally do, the OU researchers found. Getting more qualifications is actually the thing that employers are most likely to look for when considering giving a pay rise, it seems. But women are tending to focus instead on meeting deadlines and targets and working longer hours - often risking burnout in the process.

The survey found that more than six in ten women regularly work overtime, with 8% putting in at least an extra 40 hours per month, equivalent to a full working week.

But, says the OU, employers don't value this overtime nearly as much as you might think. Instead, it seems, they're much keener on staff who go in for extra education to get more work-related qualifications, with nearly half saying this would make them more likely to offer a pay rise or promotion. Only one in ten women in the survey realised this fact.

Other things viewed favourably by employers when dishing out promotions were going on training courses and being eager to learn new job skills. Meeting deadlines and targets were regarded as important - but not as important as female employees thought they were, and only half as important as getting new qualifications.

"You just can't beat real enthusiasm, but on its own this isn't always enough. If you can add the right expertise and skills, you'll have a great combination to put you on a successful career path," says Ashley Hever, talent acquisition manager, UK and Ireland, at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

"That's why we always sit up and take notice of people who are committed to gaining work-related qualifications through additional education. Not only does this show their enthusiasm, but what they learn is often of immediate value in the office."

And regularly staying late at the office can often backfire. Research from Harvard Business School has shown that employees who regularly work late are less productive, communicate less effectively, and don't plan ahead or streamline their workloads well - all things that a boss is likely to notice.

"Protracted working hours can dent an employee's productivity and, in some cases, even lead to burnout," says Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP Healthcare. "Overtime is too often worn as a badge of honour and seen by employees as a requirement for success."

Getting into the habit of leaving the office on time can seem difficult, but if Barack Obama can manage it, so can you. One useful trick is to avoid using the phone or checking email for the last 20 minutes or so of the working day - it's amazing how often that one quick call turns into another hour's work.

Taking work home too often can be one of the quickest routes to burnout, as it's easy to end up in a situation where you're never actually off duty. And the chances are that your boss won't notice that you're doing it anyway.

Instead, focus on the most important tasks, set yourself tighter deadlines and schedule easier jobs for the time of day when you're most tired.

And if you really want to impress the boss, use the extra time to get some more qualifications instead. The National Careers Service has advice on how to find a course that could help you progress your career - but your best bet is to show your commitment and enthusiasm by simply asking your boss what would be most useful. Who knows, you might even get some help with course fees from the company, or a bit of time out to study.

"The survey shows that people in the UK work very hard, but some overlook the more effective means of achieving career goals," says Keith Zimmerman, director of students at the Open University.

"With higher skills more important to our national economy than ever, now is the perfect time to think about whether you've got the right ones."

Top ten things women believe will earn a promotion or pay rise
1. Meeting deadlines (42%)
2. Meeting targets (37%)
3. Working longer hours (33%)
4. Learning new job skills (26%)
5. Ensuring their achievements are recognised (21%)
6. Go on work-related training courses (20%)
7. Being more of a team player (17%)
8. Working through lunch hour (17%)
9. Dress for success (16%)
10. Being first in the office (12%)

Top ten things employers really look for when offering pay rises or promotions
Gaining qualifications, through additional education, that help them become better at their job (46%)
Going on work-related training courses (33%)
Gaining work-related knowledge through free online courses or by reading relevant books and/or articles (26%)
Meeting deadlines (25%)
Meeting targets (23%)
Being eager to gain new job skills (22%)
Working more efficiently (19%)
Being a team player (19%)
Winning new business (18%)
Working as hard as possible to make things easy for a supervisor/manager (15%)

Read more on AOL Money:
How to give yourself a pay rise

The UK's 10 best-paid jobs

Overtime: what are your rights?

Tips for Women Asking for a Pay Raise
Tips for Women Asking for a Pay Raise