As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, I wasn’t conscious of the gender pay gap. Maybe because my mother had always been a career woman and rarely complained of being unfairly treated.

I’m not certain if she was and I doubt it. If at all, she probably hinted that she wanted an increase in salary as most workers would.

Then I got into the university and in my fifth year of studying law, I took a class in Gender and the Law which opened my eyes to the pay gap issues.

I also started reading more articles and discovered the issues that women faced in other countries. What was more worrisome was the fact that these were developed countries!

We start to learn from our smaller circles and widen our horizons over time. I haven’t witnessed the gender pay gap within my immediate family, but I’d love to hear from my Nigerian readers.

Or just maybe, I wasn’t conscious enough. Let me hear from you fellas!

On relocating to Canada, and especially since I was taking classes in human resources, this issue was always raised at the slightest opportunity.

It then dawned on me that this wasn’t a trivial issue. I’ve read countless articles on this topic. I’ve had conversations with colleagues and there are so many reasons for the gender pay gap which often falls back on the fact that we were born females.

Recent research argues that the pay gap isn’t as a result of discrimination, but as a result of becoming a parent.

For a long time, people have argued that women are paid unfairly for equal work. To this point, I never witnessed this in my inner circle like I said previously.

But, this recent research is somewhat more understandable to me. This argument that there is unfair pay when a woman decides to become a parent makes complete sense to me and if for this reason alone – I’d say that there is some sort of pay gap in Nigeria too.

It’s scary to know that deciding to bring a child to this world may hinder your pay growth in the long run. It’s worse to know that this wouldn’t necessarily affect the man (father) financially but may affect you: the woman!

To play devil’s advocate, I totally get the logic behind this. You start a new job, work for a while. On getting into one year on the job, you get pregnant, take maternity leave for about a year or less.

During that time, your employer has to spend money training someone else. By the time you resume work, you’ve possibly forgotten what you were doing about a year ago.

This time around, you’d require fresh training and those you previously started out with a year ago would have moved on to higher positions. You feel stuck!

You possibly can’t expect to earn more money knowing that you are starting afresh. You are left to take whatever remuneration is offered to you including a lower job position (if your previous position is no longer available). This also hinders career growth.

I can go on with different scenarios that could result in gender pay gaps. It depends on the choices a family (especially a woman), decides to make with regards to taking care of the children and who should be responsible.

Some women decide to leave the workforce at this stage of their lives.

I haven’t had children yet; and I must confess to you that it scares me to know that at some point in my life, I’ll have to reach this dilemma and make the decision to be there for my kids and still be a career woman.

On the other hand, I’m glad to know that I grew up in a family where both parents were building their respective careers. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but witnessing that first hand, has gone a long way in shaping me to the woman I’ve become.

With the foregoing, and with some research I’ve done, I can offer the following advice if you are a woman who would love to return to the workforce after becoming a parent.

1. Negotiate your pay

I’ve come to realize that men seem to have better negotiating skills when compared to women. I remember when I was still job searching at a time, I was willing to go with any salary that was offered to me.

It took the men in my life to change my orientation and give me some good training. I should totally write an entire post on the art of negotiation.

If you’re planning on returning to work, then be ready to negotiate an increase to avoid remaining at the same pay rate.

Better still, consider making a pay increase plan whereby you discuss the number of months your employer will notice an improvement in your work to increase your pay. Remember to put this in writing.

If pay negotiation isn’t acceptable in your company, then this is an entirely different thing. But, if it’s accepted, please take advantage of it!

2. Take advantage of Pay Transparency

If pay transparency is allowed at your workplace, then by all means, go for it! This can help with making career decisions like getting more education or changing your department, etc.

Otherwise, you can discuss with your colleagues or friends from other companies in similar positions to have an idea of the pay rate. Check out sites like PayScale which give a fair idea of salaries.

And just another tip-  I don’t think it’s wise to talk about your previous salary. Avoid the question, throw it back to the interrogator. You shouldn’t be discussing this if your prospective employer is going to leverage on the fact that you weren’t well paid at your previous job.

3. Push for Promotions

Pushing for promotions could come in any way – within or outside the company. If you ask me, I am of the opinion that you start out internally.

You stand a better chance to get heard since your employer knows your work style and ethics. But, if this doesn’t turn out well, you may need to consider finding other opportunities that may be beneficial to you.

Consider getting a raise before you begin a family. Alternatively, try to get promoted as soon as you are back in the workforce.

4. Push to Work from home/ work part time

As much as this may not be the same as working full time (if you were), it’s a better chance to still have some bearing in the workforce. You don’t want to be a complete novice. You want to still be involved in work activities.

This comes down to speaking with your employer to allow you work from home when necessary or change your status to that of part-time. And this will give you the opportunity to still build your career while taking care of your young one.

5. Work in a Fair Organization

Even after all this, the fact remains that if you are not working in a relatively fair organization, you may find it difficult to close the pay gap. It’s important that on returning back to the workforce you take into consideration the culture of the organization.

Is this organization fair? Will there be any form of discrimination? Can I have a positive discussion with my employer/ manager? These should be taken into consideration.

6. Know your Worth at all times

This last point applies mainly to everyone, including women who may not be mothers. This particular blog post touches heavily on motherhood and how it could affect the pay gap.

But, the honest truth remains that even non-mothers are likely to be affected by the gender pay gap issues. There are other reasons for gender pay gap. So, with this in mind, be conscious of your worth and what you can bring to the table!

Being aware of your worth will help you make better bargaining decisions. And with this, you can push for the salary you deserve since you know that you have the right competencies, skills, and experience to be successful in your position.

It’s a thing of joy and a big decision to decide to start a family. It’s, however, troubling to think that this may affect your pay or career as a woman. However, it’s equally important that you work towards bringing out the best for yourself and family.

If building your career is your ultimate goal, then starting a family shouldn’t jeopardize it for you.

I hope these tips come in useful for you. Please share with me in the comment section other ways women can bridge the gender pay gap. Also, if you are a man, please share your opinions below in the comment section. I’d really love to hear from you.

To strong women!