Women tend to be paid less than men in most major occupations, but the causes behind this troubling trend aren’t always easy to identify. One popular explanation is that women make less money simply because they aren’t asking for more. New research pokes a hole in that theory: According to a paper published by researchers from Cass Business School, the University of Warwick, and the University of Wisconsin [PDF], women ask for raises just as often as men but are less likely to receive them, Broadly reports.
For the study, researchers looked at data from 4600 workers under 840 employers gathered in the Australian Workplace Relations Survey from 2013 to 2014. Australia’s survey is unique in that it asks employees if their pay is negotiable, whether or not they have asked for a raise and received it, and what their feelings are about asking for more pay.
The raw data showed that male workers were 9 percent more likely to request a wage increase than women. But, when factors like amount of hours worked, qualification levels, and the nature of the job were adjusted for, there was no significant difference between the rates of men and women asking for more money.
Something that did differ between the two groups was the likelihood of actually receiving a raise. Even with all the complicating variables taken into account, men still had a 25 percent greater chance of receiving a pay boost when they asked for one. Furthermore, of the workers who didn’t attempt to negotiate at all, only 12.9 percent of women said they chose not to out of “concern for their relationships in the workplace” compared to 14.6 percent of men. This challenges the notion that women are more hesitant to ask for money because they fear how it might reflect on them.
Pay discrimination is an obstacle facing many women in the workforce, but fortunately more lawmakers are starting to make an effort to close the wage gap. In August, Massachusetts became the 13th state to make it illegal for employers to stop workers from discussing their salaries. That same bill also made Massachusetts the first state to ban employers from inquiring about salary history during an interview, and now Congress is about to consider similar legislation that would make the practice illegal nationwide. Laws like these won’t close the gap on their own, but they can help put women in a position to receive the pay they deserve—whether or not they ask for it.
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