Women’s hesitancy to negotiate in the workplace may no longer contribute to the gender pay gap, according to recent research conducted by Berkeley Haas professor Laura Kray.
Kray’s work surveyed students graduating from MBA programs between 2015 and 2019, noting each subject’s salary, gender and whether or not they had engaged in negotiations for raises or other opportunities for career advancement.
“As a social psychologist, I scrutinize the accuracy of stereotypes,” Kray said in an email. “In my experience working with executives, I did not get a sense that they were not negotiating, so I decided to dig into the accuracy of the ‘women don’t ask’ adage.”
Kray published these findings in a paper titled “Now, Women Do Ask: A Call to Update Beliefs about the Gender Pay Gap,” co-authored by Haas scholar Margaret Lee and Jessica Kennedy, Vanderbilt University associate professor. The paper was published online in the “Academy of Management Discoveries” on Aug. 15.
While Kray and her colleagues’ analysis found that negotiation did correspond to higher pay, their findings also asserted that women make 22% less than men overall. This discrepancy was previously attributed to the belief that women did not ask for raises or negotiate compensation, according to Kray and her coauthors.
“The outdated belief (that women do not ask for raises) provides a rationalization for the status quo,” Kray said in the email. “If someone believes that women are paid less than men because women don’t negotiate, it puts the onus on women to ‘fix themselves’ rather than fixing the true causes of the gender pay gap.”
The research team referenced data from 2007, which demonstrated that reported rates of negotiation by women in the workplace began to increase at a higher rate than men — effectively negating the idea that women do not ask for higher salaries.
After dispelling this myth, Kray intends to continue researching causes of the modern pay gap moving forward, but she offers steps for companies to start working toward gender equity, according to a Haas press release.
“I’d like to see organizations conducting hiring audits–tracking offers given across gender and race of candidates, as well as the ‘asks’ of these candidates and the employers’ responses,” Kray said in the email. “Only through gathering systematic data can organizations root out potential bias, where they are more likely to say yes to members of one group compared to another.”
The study showed gender equity does not rely on corporations alone. However, the study maintained that an awareness of stereotypes is an essential part of the quest towards progress.
In that same vein, Kray acknowledged that ideas around gender and the workforce that were once true no longer apply.
“It is important that scientists and members of society periodically check for updates about stereotypes and the extent to which they change over time,” Kray said in the email. “If it was once true that women didn’t negotiate, it hasn’t been true for over 20 years, so it is important to remember that our beliefs often lag behind current empirical realities.”