Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

The negotiation gap

with one comment

Commenting on this post, “v” has made a good point about one source of the gender wage gap:

Some say it happens at the negotiation stage. Men are more likely to ask for raises or higher salaries when hired or changing jobs. This trait is attributed mostly to gender and could drive the results.

As it happens, there has been research done on women and negotiation. By now something of a feminist proverb, “women don’t ask” is actually the title of a book from a few years back by Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever. (Babcock is an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon’s school of management and public policy. The two released a sequel of sorts in February.)

Women Don’t Ask seems to be marketed as self help, but is backed up by Babcock’s academic research. Here’s a sample, from the book’s site:

By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.

If the problem is that we don’t ask, then learning to ask for more should help close the gap, right? Not so fast. Writing in the Harvard Business Review (gated), Babcock herself covers the downside of asking for more:

…many companies’ cultures penalize women when they do ask – further discouraging them from doing so. Women who assertively pursue their own ambitions and promote their own interests may be labelled as bitchy or pushy.

There is necessarily less quantitative research backing up this point, so sprinkle salt to your taste. Still, it all goes back to yesterday’s post. Women can’t address the wage gap on our own.

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Written by Allison

16 May 2008 at 4:09 pm

One Response

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  1. In my own (fairly extensive) experience in managing people, few if any of the women have been shrinking violets about asking for more money or reponsiblity.

    Although I should note that most of these individuals have been beyond the entry level in their careers, so *possibly* the dynamics could be different for those who are applying for their first job.

    david foster

    18 May 2008 at 6:00 pm


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