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Are women to blame for earning less than men?
It has been proven that women negotiate less their salary, research studies found overally. And although the wage gap may be explained by many factors -- women earn only 77.4% of men’s wages on average, according to the Institute For Women’s Policy Research -- such small differences in behavior may add up overtime slowly accumulating into a wider difference as one progresses in their career, just like a river is widening as it’s progressing towards the ocean. This assumption seems to match our internal data; on Wanted, over 70% of women's salary expectations are lower than their male counterparts. This trend seems to be confirmed across all jobs and levels of seniority. Even though women's salary expectations seem to get proportionally closer to men’s as they become more experienced, this change seems too little to fully close the gap down the road.
According to Wanted data, the 18-24 women are expecting 29% less than men of the same age and women over 45 would “only” ask for 19% less than their male counterparts.
The US Department of Labor seems to think it’s at least part of the answer. One of their blog posts suggested that women should “aim higher and negotiate better”.
Although we’d love to agree; no big injustice is solved that simply.
Traditional Societal Gender Roles are at the Root of the issue
In her book, Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation--and Positive Strategies for Change, Linda Babcock found that only 7% of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while 57% of the men did so. According to her this implies that the cultural impact and societal roles we grew up in are deeply rooted in our behaviors; an assertive behavior, associated with a successful negotiator, are in line with societal expectations of men, not women. While their female counterparts are expected to be more accommodating and to be more concerned with the welfare of others.
Negotiating women are negatively perceived.
Even though only a small fraction of women actually negotiate, those that test the waters may simply see their attempt backfire: In a study conducted by the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, experiments show differences in how men and women are treated and perceived when attempting to negotiate. Female candidates are more likely to be penalized for initiating negotiations and men are more likely to negatively perceive women that initiate negotiations -- while women were penalizing every candidate evenly for initiating negotiations independent of gender. This means that negotiating is not just something that can be perceived negatively, but women are actually punished for it disproportionately.
Therefore, we are tempted to conclude that women feel uncomfortable about negotiating on their behalf because they learned that the situation will not work out in their favor. The root of the issue doesn’t seem to come from women’s negotiation skills but from the negative perceptions and subsequent penalizing behavior against them for doing so. To further illustrate that point, women negotiate very effectively when it comes to others; in these cases, their behavior is perceived as advocates for their peers and organization andas a strength. Consequently in these situations there is no measured gender gap in negotiated outcomes.
Changing the perception that negotiating is a bad thing when women do it.
So where do we go from here, how do we change a culture that penalizes women unfairly? The hardest is probably helping women feel confident about negotiation, and to relearn and override thought and behavioral patterns so that they feel negotiating isn’t going to backfire on them. One of the key factors that may help with this we believe is salary transparency.
At Wanted we think everyone's expectations are different but the same job should yield equal pay. That’s why we don’t allow companies to negotiate salaries with specific candidates. They have to set the precise budgeted salary for each position based on skills, location and experience. Then we only notify Talents of opportunities if these match or exceed the minimum salary required by the Talent.
If men like to negotiate, let them. But should others be penalized for this? We don’t think so.
The lack of salary transparency leads to women living in a parallel world where they earn only 77 cents on a man’s dollar. Let’s change that. Join Wanted.