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People often say one of the reasons for the gender wage gap is that women don’t negotiate.
Well, a new study shows that negotiating may actually be the problem.
The study of 184 managers, published in the journal Organization Science, showed that when the participants faced a scenario in which they would have to explain raises they were awarding—in other words, prepare to negotiate—they were likely to give men raises two-and-a-half times as large as the raises for female workers of equal skills and experience. This was even before any negotiations would have occurred.
However, when the managers faced a scenario in which they would award the raises without explanation, they gave equal raises to the men and the women.
Really?! While some studies indicate that women don’t negotiate as often as men do (especially early in their careers), this experiment suggests that the cards are stacked against them before they even begin a negotiation.
In every profession (except for shoe-shining and some other personal care jobs, oddly enough), women earn less compared to their male counterparts. On average, women make about 70 cents for every dollar a man makes in a similar position.
“Whenever research reveals disparities between men’s and women’s pay, there is a common retort: The gap ‘must’ be due to unobserved differences in men’s and women’s willingness or skill in negotiating for pay,” Maura Belliveau, who conducted the research at Emory University and is now an associate professor of management at Long Island University in New York, told The Globe and Mail. “Although some gender differences in negotiation exist, this study reveals women incur a major disadvantage that precedes any negotiation.”
As The Globe and Mail notes, “By flagging 70 per cent of the money for men, the first group of managers ensured men would not need to negotiate, as they already had a sizable raise, she said. If female workers tried to negotiate, they were at a disadvantage because most of the money was going to men.”
Although the prospects of altering unconscious biases are slim, the takeaway here is not that women should give up on negotiating. Human resources departments should be made more aware of these prejudices. And the better women are at negotiating (and the more often we do it), the more we’ll start to break down the prejudices that lead managers to make it even harder for us.
But what’s the best way to ask for a pay raise? Start by researching the amount you deserve to make and learn how to achieve your salary goals with Negotiating 101 and get answers to the 10 questions you’re too embarrassed to ask about negotiating.
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