A New Study Says The Wage Gap Isn't Caused By Women Not Asking For Raises

The gender wage gap is real.  For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 80 cents, and for women of color the gaps between those earnings only decrease.

Many critics have long argued that the reason for the disproportion in incomes between genders is because of a woman’s inability to ask for a raise, and that women in general are more timid and do not want to disrupt their workplace with a probing question. But a recent peer reviewed study by the Harvard Business Review just debunked that myth entirely. 

The study randomly selected 4,600 employees across 800 different workplaces in Australia and went beyond the normal realms of surveys and recorded people’s motivations with more personalized questions that hoped to capture their “asking” behavior. Some of those included, “Have you attempted to attain a better wage/salary for yourself since you commenced employment with this employer?” “Were you successful?” “Why have you not attempted to attain a better wage/promotion for yourself since you commenced your employment?”

The study concluded that women and men ask for raises in equal numbers, but men receive them 20 percent of the time, while women only receive them 15 percent of the time.

Factors like age, status in the workplace and education were all recorded, but showed that none of those affected a woman’s ability to receive a raise, even when asked. 

While the 5 percent difference may not seem large, over time it can (and definitely does) add up. Women have long been hardwired to believe that if they have a seat at the table, they should be grateful for that seat, and not challenge those above them for a better seat. This narrative also plays into the exhausting anecdote that women do not have what it takes to serve as CEO, because of their inability to ask for more, when in reality they are asking just as much. 

A recent report by the New York Times found that, “Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John,” making this a definitive indicator that for women in corporate America, the glass ceiling is far from being cracked. Or even more so, that for the women who are attempting to break through, they are more than likely having to do so with their male boss’s approval. 

The study concludes by saying, “The bottom line is that the patterns we have found are consistent with the idea that women’s requests for advancement are treated differently from men’s requests.  Asking does not mean getting — at least if you are a female.” 

While the tides are slowly changing for women, the reality is that there is still a long way to go.