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Friday, March 1, 2013

Equal Pay for Women

It's been over 70 years since women started joining the workforce en masse in the western world.
There are still clear discrepancies in pay between men and women; however, these differences may not be (solely) the malicious act of sexist corporations.

There are several logical explanations for the variance.


One reason for the difference in wages is simply biological. Many women take time off from work to have children and raise them. This time off adds up and, just as two men of different experience levels are paid differently, this affects the salaries of women as well.

However, I believe the biggest factors for the range of pay between men and women is a fairly simple and straightforward one.

"Nice Girls Don't Ask"
This is the name of an article published in the Harvard Business Review back in 2003.

As the article title implies:
"Women often don’t get what they want and deserve because they don’t ask for it. In three separate studies, we found that men are more likely than women to negotiate for what they want."

"The first study found that the starting salaries of male MBAs who had recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon were 7.6%, or almost $4,000, higher on average than those of female MBAs from the same program. That’s because most of the women had simply accepted the employer’s initial salary offer; in fact, only 7% had attempted to negotiate. But 57% of their male counterparts—or eight times as many men as women—had asked for more.

Another study tested this gender difference in the lab. Subjects were told that they would be observed playing a word game and that they would be paid between $3 and $10 for playing. After each subject completed the task, an experimenter thanked the participant and said, “Here’s $3. Is $3 OK?” For the men, it was not OK, and they said so. Their requests for more money exceeded the women’s by nine to one.

The largest of the three studies surveyed several hundred people over the Internet, asking respondents about the most recent negotiations they’d attempted or initiated and when they expected to negotiate next. The study showed that men place themselves in negotiation situations more often than women do and regard more of their interactions as potential negotiations. (See the exhibit "Can We Talk?")" (HBR)


The New York Times reiterates this argument in the article: "Women, Repeat This: Don’t Ask, Don’t Get" in 2008.

Then again in Forbes in their 2012 article "Nice Girls Still Don't Ask For What They Want! Why Women Fall Short At The Negotiating Table"
"There is much made about the fact that women are often paid less than men. However, there could be a very logical and compelling reason as to why this occurs so often. Studies show that women are far less likely to engage in negotiation than their male counterparts. Negotiation is the art of asking for what you want and being willing to make concessions and adjustments in order to achieve the desired result. Women are adept at being flexible. But are they equally adept at being able to ask for what they want?

Studies show that women are less likely to negotiate deals than men for 2 reasons:

  • Women are socialized to place the needs of others first and their own second 

  • Women believe that they will be recognized and rewarded for their hard work and dedication

They have not be trained or socialized with the knowledge they can ask for more, while men have been groomed to ask for more and are prepared to negotiate for what they want. Their socialization process is completely different. Therefore, their levels of confidence and comfort to negotiate are far greater." (Forbes)

Again, women being timid in the workplace is not the only reason for the discrepancies in wages, but, as one of the articles indicated "don't ask, don't get".

However, this doesn't have to be the case forever!
If my theory is correct, the problem is primarily a cultural behavior that can be changed!

And the gap is closing. In fact, it has disappeared in several industries.



So we're obviously not at wage equality (numerically), and I'm sure there are managers who favor men over women, but we are not as far apart as some may imply and there are logical justifications for the difference.

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