Everyone knows women make less money than men. And everyone thought they knew why: because women don’t ask for raises as often as men do.
But according to a recent study, that simply isn’t true. It found no evidence that women are paid less because they aren’t aggressive about asking for more money, and also did not support the perception that women don’t ask because they are “more concerned than men about the quality of their relationships in the workplace.”
“The evidence suggests that — once we are able to control for variables unavailable to prior researchers,” the study says, “women do ask but they do not get.”
Women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, with women of color faring even worse. The gap has been steady through the last decade, and at this rate, it will take more than 100 years to close.
Researchers from Cass Business School in London and from the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin, who conducted study based on data from the 2013-2014 from the Australian Workplace Relations Survey, said it was important to study the “why” because until now, the fact that women are making less money is blamed on them: Women could make more money if they only asked for it.
The researchers examined questions that hadn’t previously been asked of participants in past studies on the wage gap. The data provides insight into “motives, behavior, and histories” of both men and women in the workplace.
“It has the distinctive feature that it asks individuals a set of questions about whether their pay is set by negotiation with the company, whether they have successfully obtained a wage rise since joining the employer, whether they preferred not to attempt to negotiate a pay rise because they were concerned about their relationships, why they decided that, and about their levels of satisfaction,” the study says of the data.
“Unlike in standard data sets, therefore, it is in principle possible — admittedly in an imperfect way — to inquire into ‘why’ women and men choose to act in the ways observed.”
So, do women and men actually act differently when it comes to asking for raises?
Preliminary data from the survey seems to reenforce the stereotype that women aren’t getting because they aren’t asking: Seventy-five percent of men said they have asked for more money, while only 66 percent of women have asked. But as researchers took a closer look and controlled groups based upon hours worked (full or part time), that difference evaporated.
“On closer scrutiny, the appearance of a lack of ‘asking’ is being driven statistically by working a shorter number of hours,” the study says. “Males who work shorter hours also ‘do not ask.’ ”
According to the study data, women are less likely to be in a job where they can negotiate salary than men are. Approximately 48 percent of men reported being able to ask for more money, while only 33 percent of women said the same.
Survey data also disprove the hypothesis that women ask less because they’re concerned about how being perceived as pushy or assertive could impact their workplace relationships: Almost 15 percent of men said they hadn’t asked for a raise because they were worried about how it would impact other people’s perception or them, while only 12.9 percent of women cited the same reason for staying silent when it comes to asking for more money.