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Women Don’t Ask

Why do men earn more than women?  Attitude!

Last week on Squared Away, Francine Blau, a Cornell University labor economist, discussed the economic and other external reasons behind why women earn less than men.  But there’s another way to look at it: women’s behavior differs from men’s – and that plays a role in how much they’re paid.

A woman earns 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.  This disparity undermines women’s well-being, reducing their standard of living and affecting everyone’s retirement – including their husband’s.

The following is an excerpt from a June 2003 article I wrote as a Boston Globe a reporter about an experiment by researcher Lisa Barron, a professor of organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Irvine.  It involved 38 future MBAs – 21 men and 17 women – who participated in mock job interviews with a fictitious employer.

In the mock interviews, the students were offered $61,000 for a new position.  Here’s what I wrote about the differences in men’s and women’s approaches to their pay negotiations:

Men, responding to the salary offer, asked for $68,556, on average, while women requested $67,000 for the same job.

More revealing were differences in fundamental beliefs men and women expressed about themselves when Barron questioned them: 70 percent of the men’s remarks indicated they felt entitled to earn more than others, while 71 percent of women’s remarks showed they felt they should earn the same as everyone else.  Also, 85 percent of men’s remarks asserted they knew their worth, while 83 percent of women’s remarks indicated they were unsure.

“What this really is about is this whole concept of thinking of yourself in terms of monetary worth,” Barron said in a telephone interview. “Some of [the women] definitely did not like it. They didn’t seem to be comfortable with it.”

A critic at the time said Barron’s study “make(s) women look deficient.”  Indeed, others blame external factors such as low-paying professions and discrimination, among other things, for why women earn less.

But Barron stands by her research.  She said in a recent email that she’s had conversations “with dozens and dozens of women” since completing her experiment.  “They confirm that they do feel less comfortable in salary negotiations and tend to ask for less.”

After learning about their professor’s research, some of her students have asked for more money “and have been financially rewarded,” she said.

Can’t win the lottery either if you don’t buy a ticket.

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One Response to Women Don’t Ask

  1. erik321 says:

    I think men earn more because we always did. And we are just good at it.