Gender Affects Salaries, But Maybe Not How You Think

by The Happy Rock on August 29, 2007

martha_stewart_women_business.jpg“Women working full time earn about 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time”. That number is a little misleading, as it doesn’t take into account education and employee status, but the difference is still 11% when equal employees are studied across genders.

We all know the gender differences in salary still exists in business and so does the glass ceiling to some extent. The common explanation is sexism and deliberate underpayment of women. Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, has been studying the issue at length and has produced some interesting findings. Time and again her research shows that women are much less aggressive, and their finances take a hit because of it. An 11% hit in starting salary could end up costing a women over half a million dollars or more during a 30 year career.

Do the readers agree with this assessment?

Is the solution to teach women to be more aggressive?

This is one of those situations were the surface facts may not tell the whole truth. This type of topic calls us to look past our stereotypes and prejudices and look at the reality of the matter. Are there reasons that women are less aggressive then men? Do the men in business positions react differently to an aggressive man vs. an aggressive woman? Are there other factors at work?

Hannah Riley Bowles, who studies psychology at Harvard, offered research supporting the notion that aggressive men are treated differently than women. “While both men and women were penalized for negotiating, Bowles found that the negative effect for women was more than twice as large as that for men.

Do women feel that this is an accurate view of the business world for them? It makes sense to me. Even the language we use to describe aggressive, pushy men is much better then the language used for a aggressive, pushy women. Men are called pushy and go-getters, while women are nagging and b****y. Women are expected to be nice, but the same rule doesn’t apply to men. How does Martha Stewart get described vs. how does Jack Welch famous GE CEO or Donald Trump?

Personally, I will admit to judging women by different standards in the business world. Research like this really helps illuminate the subtle ways in which I may carry a sexist world view around with me. It’s time to take notice, and start changing.

What are the reader’s experience with this issues

Source : Washington Post Article

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

plonkee August 29, 2007 at 11:48 am

I definitely think that women have an image problem in business – most women I know use all the tools at their disposal to be successful but these are not always seen in a favourable light.

I think the long-term solution is to teach society that its as ok for women to be assertive as it is for men. Things will change when we make them change.


Thecpa August 29, 2007 at 6:47 pm

Happy Rock,
Excellent post and dead on the mark! You have nailed every aspect down to the nagging b___h analogy. This uneven pay anomaly has improved over the decades but has not disappeared as we enter a new millennium. It’s not only the men that still carry sexist attitudes but many of the women themselves. I believe that sexist attitude among women is another reason that the pay disparity still exists.

Recognizing a problem is the first step in getting to a solution.


Mike August 29, 2007 at 10:52 pm

It sounds like the study is showing that less assertive people make less money and that women are typically less assertive than men. There is a subtle difference between this and women make less money. An individual can work with the first one, while the latter is much harder to get around.


The Happy Rock August 30, 2007 at 10:12 am

plonkee and cpa, you are both right, as a society we need to continue the discussion and change one person at time, starting with ourselves.

@Mike – I agree that less assertive men probably make less than assertive men, but the problem is that when a less assertive male tries to assert himself it is not viewed as negatively as when a women tries to assert herself.


Meg September 28, 2007 at 3:42 pm

I agree that women are penalized more harshly than men for negotiating and for being assertive/aggressive in general. In fact just recently I experienced this firsthand. I received a raise and a promotion, but the increase in salary was less than I expected. When I aired my concerns to my (female!) boss, she told me that when I’m given a raise I should just say thank you and that it was unbecoming to appear ungrateful. What?! The worst part is I know my male counterpart was unhappy too, but I doubt he was looked at as “ungrateful” or “unbecoming” when he complained! I am still sort of in shock by the situation.


The Happy Rock September 28, 2007 at 5:23 pm

@Meg – I agree that male counterparts probably wouldn’t receive the same response, I am sorry that you have to deal with that. Hopefully, by continuing to have these types of discussions the attitudes can continue to change.


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