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Women Ask for Raises As Much As Men Do—But Get Them Less Often

September 6, 2016, 3:25 PM UTC
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One of the reasons frequently given for the persistent gender pay gap around the world is women’s reluctance to ask for a raise. But a new study shows that women ask for more pay just as often as men do—but get it less often.

In fact, the study, by the Cass Business School in London, the University of Warwick in the U.K., and the University of Wisconsin, revealed that women were 25% less likely than men to get a hike in pay when they asked for it.

The report comes to the stark conclusion that “women do ask but they do not get.” Looking at survey data from 4,600 workers in 840 workplaces in Australia, the findings appear to debunk the commonly-held idea that when it comes to negotiating, women are less aggressive than men.

“We were expecting to find evidence for this old theory that women are less pushy than men,” said co-author Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics and behavioral science at Warwick University. “But the women and the men were equal.” That can only mean one thing, in Oswald’s view. In the workplace, he said, if women are asking for more money at the same rate as men, but aren’t getting it, “there is discrimination against women.”

The researchers used data from the Australian Workplace Relations Survey because it contains distinct queries on pay negotiation. Oswald says the findings are a good guide to workplace conditions in both the U.K. and the United States.

While women overall aren’t as successful as men when it comes to securing raises, the study contained some potentially good news for the gap between men’s and women’s pay, which stands at 17.48% in the U.K., at 17.91% in the U.S., and 18% in Australia, according to the OECD.

When the researchers of the new study broke down the data by age, they found that younger women successfully negotiated raises as often as young men did. In particular, women under the age of 40 managed to negotiate for higher pay. “That’s got to bode well for reducing the gender pay gap,” said Amanda Goodall, the study’s co-author and associate professor at Cass Business School. “For me, it feels like the tide is turning.”

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One possible explanation for younger women’s success is that—compared to their older peers—they’re more likely to consider themselves a breadwinner, Goodall said. She didn’t speculate beyond that, but perhaps the role of the breadwinner is stoking women’s sense of urgency and confidence in salary negotiations.

If women in the younger generation continue to successfully negotiate higher pay as they rise through the ranks, they could have better luck chipping away at the pay gap than their predecessors did.