Why don’t women ask for raises?

A recent study found that women are less likely to ask for higher salaries because when they do the social costs are far greater than when men ask for raises. You know the usual–I don’t want to work with an aggressive, ball-busting bitch.
The study first done by a professor, who noticed that women Ph.d candidates were less likely to be teaching classes than men, decided to inquire.

When Babcock took the complaint to her boss, she learned there was a very simple explanation: “The dean said each of the guys had come to him and said, ‘I want to teach a course,’ and none of the women had done that,” she said. “The female students had expected someone to send around an e-mail saying, ‘Who wants to teach?’ ” The incident prompted Babcock to start systematically studying gender differences when it comes to asking for pay raises, resources or promotions. And what she found was that men and women are indeed often different when it comes to opening negotiations.
These differences, Babcock and other researchers have concluded, may partially explain the persistent gender gap in salaries, as well as other disparities in how people rise to the top of organizations. Women working full time earn about 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time, Babcock said. That figure does not take differing professions and educational levels into account, but when those and other factors are controlled for, women who work full time and have never taken time off to have children earn about 11 percent less than men with equivalent education and experience.

The studies done were all really interesting as were the conclusions.

“What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,” Bowles said. “They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.”

They luckily moved past the tired and archaic, ‘women are genetically inferior’ bull, and looked at reasons outside of just blaming women for not being aggressive enough in demanding salaries. They found that there are clear social ramifications for women to ask for raises. It is dangerous for them to do so as they will hurt their reputation and potentially hurt their work environment.
Furthermore, I think that women are so used to working twice as hard as men, they may not always think they can get a raise. They have probably internalized the message that they are lucky they got the job in the first place. Naturally you can’t totally generalize, but in a lot of cases, it is not that women don’t believe they deserve it, or they are afraid of being perceived as a bitch, they just don’t believe they will actually get it.
The reality is, women do the majority of work, in non-profits, in education, in government jobs, in corporations, in health care and in universities and men make the majority of the money. Still. Today.
Maybe that is why women don’t ask for raises. When was the last time you asked for a raise? And I know damn well you deserve it.
via MSNBC.

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31 Comments

  1. alexmlwallace
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m a guy, and I’m still terrified of the idea of point-blank asking for a raise.
    So to all the women and men who are intimidated to ask for raises: let’s just do it the next time we know we deserve it!

  2. Shinobi
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I asked for a raise last year and I got a raise and a promotion.
    But I think I am an exception, my company cannot afford to lose me. So far I have not used this to get me more money… maybe if I were a guy, I would.

  3. Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    You should consider reading and/or linking to this thread on Community College Dean, in which the “decorum” issue and the “ambition” issue are discussed.
    http://suburbdad.blogspot.com/2007/07/ask-administrator-ambition-and-decorum.html

  4. Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I started making a lot more money when I decided to ask for what I thought I was worth. If you add value you can ask to be paid for it. It really works. I would encourage women NOT to worry about the “oh no – she’s a pushy bitch” factor. The most important thing is to not be defensive about it. You aren’t defending yourself – you are simply stating your case and asking to be valued appropriately for your contribution to the companies success.

  5. Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I meant “company’s” not companies.

  6. SarahMC
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t deserve a raise. I spent half my day on here, talking to you people!

  7. SarahMC
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    spend*

  8. Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Bowles and Babcock have been doing lots of interesting research on this topic for several years now, and they’re not the only ones. One interesting theory that they mentioned is that there’s a great variance between industries: in some fields, salary negotiation is equally expected from men and women, but in others, the penalization of women is extreme.
    If you’re interested in seeing more of the studies on the gender differences in salary negotiation, I link to several of them in today’s post on Differenceblog (at livejournal.com)

  9. roro80
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate your posting this, Samhita. I think I’m one who may fall into the “expecting an email asking who wants to teach”, although my field is different. I don’t think that my company and/or boss would have an “overbearing bitch” reaction to my asking for a raise, so I suppose I should probably be more pro-active about it, and not expect that more money and responsibility will just come to me. Might as well give it a try.

  10. dykerson
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of the “She Should Run” campaign that was discussed in a post on Feministing last week. The post says that women are more likely to run for public office if asked, much like the PhD candidates waiting for an email to be sent around about teaching classes.
    One of the most inspiring speeches I have heard was made by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez at a 2003 Women in Leadership Conference in DC. She said (and this is NOT verbatim and was stated more eloquently by Sanchez), women need to recognize that we will rarely be invited to a place at the table and that for precisely this reason we better damned well make our own places at the table.
    As far as motivational speeches go this one was well done, but there is a reality to consider as well. I recognize that programs like She Should Run exist because of the “social ramifications” that do exist for women who demand raises, promotions, a place at the table, etc. Being confident enough to get what you want in this world is a hard line to tow, but I agree with Samhita, “I know damn well you deserve it.”

  11. Posted July 31, 2007 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I was confronted with this just last week. I was offered a great job (that I really wanted) and I knew the posted salary range and what I wanted to be paid. I was told I would be offered the job before the formal letter came (I was on a contract before the offer) and was told the approximate salary which was lower than I wanted. I spent the weekend planning my strategy for negotiating what I wanted and had a number in mind. When I got my letter it had that number. So I didn’t negotiate for more. It was a good number and I have fabulous holiday time and benefits.
    Now I’m left to wonder if I was undervaluing myself or if my employer (a large university rated one of the top 100 companies to work for in my country) knows what I’m worth.
    I guess I’ll never know.

  12. Posted July 31, 2007 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Apparently there aren’t just social consequences to asking for a raise — if your boss is batshit crazy enough, you just might get yourself killed by asking for a raise.

  13. the frog queen
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I read about this study yesterday and I have to say it made perfect sense to me. I recently had a run in with my boss about why I wasn’t making as much as my counter parts. The HR advised against me trying to negotiate a pay raise and I didn’t agree with her. She said that I should be happy making what I am considering my age, but that seemed a little shafty to me. Why was the rookie making more than me in the exact same position. Anyway, controversey and I didn’t get a pay raise and yes, people just think I’m a greedy bitch and the people I work around pretty much hate me. Yeay for office politics.

  14. dckatiebug
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    This study is great and absolutely confirms something that I’ve suspected for a while …
    I used to have a low-level management job in a congressional office before I went back to graduate school and one of my duties was to hire entry-level staff. Of the half dozen or so people I hired over the course of eighteen months, a group evenly divided between men and women, every man asked for a larger salary than he was offered. (All were turned down.) But none of the women tried to negiotiate for a higher salary.
    In the graduate program I’m in, which is about 2/3 women and 1/3 men, the men are far more aggressive in asking for classes, applying for grant money, etc.
    I don’t think many managers or department heads sitting around thinking, “let’s pay the women less or give them fewer opportunities … ” but in effect, that’s what is happening.

  15. Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m a guy, and from what I’ve seen in the work world, it isn’t really about what one “deserves”, but about how one is perceived. I think corporate culture has a long way to go before a dedicated and capable woman is seen as a “great asset” to the firm to at least the same extent as the cheery and well-liked guy who has the boss’ ear (and the boss, around many companies, is often a woman). I dislike the implication in this story, that somehow individual women in the office can overcome the engrained social bias towards men. I thought that was true too when I entered the working world. However, my experiences show that white tall handsome outgoing men will have raises thrown at them, while another worker that differs on any one of those categories will be seen as expendable, unlikeable, and probably ungrateful. I am almost tempted to pull an “office space” and stop putting in any effort, because I will probably end up in the corner office.
    It is a sad, corrupt, illogical world. And, although I sometimes wish otherwise, the revolution isn’t coming.

  16. Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m a guy, and from what I’ve seen in the work world, it isn’t really about what one “deserves”, but about how one is perceived. I think corporate culture has a long way to go before a dedicated and capable woman is seen as a “great asset” to the firm to at least the same extent as the cheery and well-liked guy who has the boss’ ear (and the boss, around many companies, is often a woman). I dislike the implication in this story, that somehow individual women in the office can overcome the engrained social bias towards men. I thought that was true too when I entered the working world. However, my experiences show that white tall handsome outgoing men will have raises thrown at them, while another worker that differs on any one of those categories will be seen as expendable, unlikeable, and probably ungrateful. I am almost tempted to pull an “office space” and stop putting in any effort, because I will probably end up in the corner office.
    It is a sad, corrupt, illogical world. And, although I sometimes wish otherwise, the revolution isn’t coming.

  17. Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m a guy, and from what I’ve seen in the work world, it isn’t really about what one “deserves”, but about how one is perceived. I think corporate culture has a long way to go before a dedicated and capable woman is seen as a “great asset” to the firm to at least the same extent as the cheery and well-liked guy who has the boss’ ear (and the boss, around many companies, is often a woman). I dislike the implication in this story, that somehow individual women in the office can overcome the engrained social bias towards men. I thought that was true too when I entered the working world. However, my experiences show that white tall handsome outgoing men will have raises thrown at them, while another worker that differs on any one of those categories will be seen as expendable, unlikeable, and probably ungrateful. I am almost tempted to pull an “office space” and stop putting in any effort, because I will probably end up in the corner office.
    It is a sad, corrupt, illogical world. And, although I sometimes wish otherwise, the revolution isn’t coming.

  18. workerbee
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m a guy, and from what I’ve seen in the work world, it isn’t really about what one “deserves”, but about how one is perceived. I think corporate culture has a long way to go before a dedicated and capable woman is seen as a “great asset” to the firm to at least the same extent as the cheery and well-liked guy who has the boss’ ear (and the boss, around many companies, is often a woman). I dislike the implication in this story, that somehow individual women in the office can overcome the engrained social bias towards men. I thought that was true too when I entered the working world. However, my experiences show that white tall handsome outgoing men will have raises thrown at them, while another worker that differs on any one of those categories will be seen as expendable, unlikeable, and probably ungrateful. I am almost tempted to pull an “office space” and stop putting in any effort, because I will probably end up in the corner office.
    It is a sad, corrupt, illogical world. And, although I sometimes wish otherwise, the revolution isn’t coming.

  19. workerbee
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh god. Sorry for the multiple posts. My newbieness to posting is painfully obvious.

  20. Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  21. Posted July 31, 2007 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    The last time I asked for a raise was right before I got fired.
    heh.

  22. Taisa-Marie
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    The last time I asked for a raise was right before I got fired.
    I second that remark. They ended up hiring the ‘man’ to replace me at more than the raise I was asking for. Tried to persue it but he had completed his BA degree and I was still a year shy (although I had three years experience, he had none) and no attorney I found would take it as ‘well, he has more education’ was enough of a fall back. :(

  23. oenophile
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    IIRC, Genny said that lock-step pay scales benefit women for this reason, but don’t really benefit anyone who is very talented and works really hard.
    This does tell us that there are a lot of things that companies can do to ensure pay equity. Among them:
    -distributing work as top-down, rather than having people ask for it;
    -lock-step pay scales with clear, rational reasons for bonuses (ex. in a law firm, based solely upon hours billed, or a specialty field such as M&A);
    -removing gender from resumes when hiring (similar to the idea of having musicians audition behind a screen);
    -have a routine method of giving raises (i.e. every year), and publish the weighted average of the raises for each category of worker (so women will know whether or not they are average, above average, or below average).
    It will take decades to reverse sexism; even our generation is subject to a lot of it from seeing it done among the people who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. IMHO, the fastest way to reverse it is to use methods like those I outlined, which will get people in the habit of treating their employees in a gender & race-blind manner.
    Apropos of that, why is it that black women out-earn white women? Is some of it that white women are stigmatised as being bitchy when they ask for raises or promotions? Has anyone ever broken down those factors by race?

  24. noname
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    The reality is, women do the majority of work, in non-profits, in education, in government jobs, in corporations, in health care and in universities…” – Samhita
    How did you come to this opinion? Do you have a source?

  25. sucraloser
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I actually had my first salary-bargaining experience a couple of months ago, and it was extremely stressful. I consulted with my father, who has always had a knack for bargaining, and was shocked that a little pressure and fearlessness got me what I was asking for.
    However, upon starting my new job, I started worrying that I had asked for too much, was under qualified, had set the bar too high, etc. etc. It felt like such a lose-lose situation, and despite being mentally aware that I’m very good at what I do, I couldn’t shake a building anxiety about my worth in the workplace.
    My mother is a workaholic burning her own volatile fuel of guilt and anxiety. And it amazes me how many women seem to sip at that bitter brew. I marvel at women who have managed to climb the ladder and keep their sanity intact when there’s so much working against us.

  26. ambidextrous amazon
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    “why is it that black women out-earn white women?”
    If that’s true, and the statistic that there are proportionally more black women heading single-parent households than are white women is also true, it could be that black women out-earn white women because more of them are the sole breadwinners.
    Just a guess, but it makes some sense to me.

  27. prairielily
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    I was under the impression that black women don’t out-earn white women; they’re just more likely to work full-time. Wasn’t it previously discussed on Feministing?

  28. Posted August 1, 2007 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for posting this when you did. One of my freelance writing contracts is about to expire, and I just asked for a raise with the new contract. Don’t know yet if I’ll get it… but I don’t think I would have asked for it if I hadn’t been reading this. Thank you.

  29. Kali Ma
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Black women don’t out-earn white women. If you want to see a good break-down of the data, go to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (iwpr.org). The report itself is here:
    http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/R260.pdf

  30. Rock Star
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    the frog queen- can you sue for age discrimination?

  31. Posted August 1, 2007 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I was worried about asking for a raise I was a little worried about writing about it on my own blog that my current employer knows about.
    I don’t know if I’m over estimating my concern or underestimating it.

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