Studies have shown that in the American workplace a gender pay gap often exists where women earn less than their male counterparts. New research into the matter offers women some perspective about the best ways to go about closing that gap.
Unlike men, according to a study in Psychology of Women Quarterly, women have to pay attention to the approach they use in order to avoid social backlash when asking for more money.
“The anticipation of social backlash or pay discrimination is taxing for women and undermining of their human potential,” stated study authors Hannah Riley Bowles and Linda Babcock.
Bowles and Babcock surveyed 402 participants who were asked to watch a video in which a recently promoted female employee negotiated her new salary.
In some examples, the women expressed a concern for their relationship with their managers — for example, by including phrases such as “I hope it’s OK to ask you about this” and “My relationships with people here are very important to me.” In others, the women negotiated for higher pay salary while alluding to another offer. In other examples, the women combined the two approaches.
Survey participants were then asked questions about which of the women they would most enjoy working with. The results showed that either strategy was met with good response on its own, but combining the two did not have a more positive impact.
In a second part of their study, the researchers had men read from the same negotiation script. They found that negotiating for higher pay based on an offer elsewhere was the best strategy for men.
The authors of the study concluded that when female negotiators legitimized their compensation requests and communicated concern for organizational relationships, the participants found the women to be more relational and found their requests for compensations to be more legitimate.
“While gender constraints are real, they are not inescapable,” the authors stated. “We expect men to be in charge because they are, and we expect men to earn more because typically they do … every woman who reduces the gender gap in pay and authority reforms the social structures that keep women in their place.”