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THE AUSTRALIAN SALARY CHRONICLES #2 – Salary and Flexibility are not Mutually Exclusive

Welcome to The Australian Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. Very little attention is given to the good news stories and we want to highlight these to inspire and support other women.

We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.

This week we’re speaking with an Associate Director of Reporting who not only became one of the first females in a leadership role in her area, but also broke the mold in role modelling a flexible working arrangement in her organisation.

Title: Associate Director, Reporting

Location: Sydney

Salary/Benefits Offered: $149k

Negotiated Salary/Benefits: $156k (starting) then $163k after 6 months (plus flexible working)

What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary:

I work for a large government agency where my colleagues are mainly senior males in IT, traditionally a highly male-dominated area. This presented many challenges, particularly in negotiating salary increases and the opportunity to work flexibly. As a mum of two young boys, the challenges of doing what it takes to succeed professionally and making my family a priority was harder the more senior I progressed.

As a female, I found myself often already judged by my male colleagues before I had entered a room. I had to work hard to prove myself for a good two years before it felt like I was taken seriously for my capabilities.

When a new role was advertised within my team in a leadership capacity, I wanted to apply for it but lacked confidence and had no experience in high level conversations. In addition, the public sector is known for its clearly defined hierarchical structure meaning that progression above a direct pay grade would be unusual.

YPWA encouraged me to apply and helped me to prepare for the interview, so that I could build my confidence and change my mindset. The coaching paid off, I was shortlisted for the interview and subsequently offered the role. I then took the next and difficult step to negotiate my starting salary at the mean and not the usual starting point of minimum level for that pay grade; then subsequently the maximum level (for the pay grade) after six months of being in the role.

When I took over the leadership role, the organisational structure was very flat with a lack of accountability in many areas. I proposed an organisational change which was approved and we then recruited for the new positions. The scale of projects that were delegated to the department increased and we were under-resourced to cope with the demand. Internal politics together with unsupportive colleagues mean the situation became highly stressful and I seriously considered resigning because the cost personally was not worth it. I stayed on believing in my team and myself but something had to change and it was not remuneration.

When I consulted with Kate, she challenged me to request more flexibility in my working arrangements, specifically working from home one day a week. This would allow me the space away from the politics and noise of the office to think and strategise whilst allowing me some time to prioritise my family commitments at the same time. Whilst in many organisations this is common practise, in my organisation, to my knowledge, this had never been done. I was reporting directly to the CFO, and when I had the difficult conversation to ask for a more flexible arrangement, I was surprised when he agreed, acknowledging that I needed the space to think to work more effectively.

At the start of 2016, I began working one day a week from home. While this was a challenge at first to get my colleagues, staff and other stakeholders used to the idea, it was ultimately highly successful in increasing my productivity, allowing me the space to concentrate and manage my deliverables.

Recently I have transitioned this arrangement to a nine-day fortnight – meaning I work extra hours during the week to take a tenth day off every fortnight. While I’m still learning, and improving my system of working flexibly, it has helped me to be more effective and also spend more time with my family and on myself.  The experience of applying for the leadership role and asking for a flexible work arrangement was a great personal challenge, but I learnt that it is worth taking a risk outside your comfort zone and breaking the mould to achieve your goals.


YPWA are committed to closing the gender pay gap in Australia. If you are a woman and need some support negotiating a salary or career related issue, why not attend one of our Free Monthly Group Mentoring Sessions. To receive details of this and other YPWA Events register at

If you are a woman with a story to share on negotiating salary/remuneration or progression opportunity, please contact [email protected].

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