It is a fact that women still earn less than men. Most estimates by economists value that they charge between 10% and 20% less, although the size of the wage gap that separates them varies between countries and jobs. The question remains why. A commonly accepted explanation is that women are not as good at negotiating or they dare less to ask for an increase. This is at least the theory defended by many investigations to date. But a more recent and detailed study rejects it: you have come to the conclusion that they ask for increases as often as they do, although they are less likely to obtain them.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers questioned the statements of previous studies, which claimed that the style of negotiation of women was different from that of men and therefore did not achieve their objectives. More specifically, they claimed that they act less assertively, due to their insecurity but also because of fear of altering their relationship with their boss or colleagues. This new research finds that this motivation is just as true for men as for women: the concern for their labor relations is a reason not to ask for an increase for both genders equally.
"We were surprised by the results, we expected to find similar conclusions to previous studies", explain Benjamin Artz, Amanda Goodall and Andrew J. Oswald, responsible for the research, in HBR. "However, we discover that women negotiate their wages as often as men, but it is more likely that they get them. We also know now that the reasons why this happens are not what we believed. "
The last major study that concluded that women were not so assertive when asking for an improvement in their working conditions had as its title Women do not ask [Las mujeres no preguntan] and it was carried out in 2007. Another, which talks about the fear of altering the relationship with their peers, dates back to 2010. Why have different conclusions been reached on this occasion? One of the keys is that researchers have had access to a more recent and detailed data set, which has allowed them to investigate this issue with a renewed vision.
The research reflects the reality of 4,600 randomly selected employees in 800 workplaces in Australia. According to the researchers, "it is the only country with really good information about who and how many times a salary increase is requested". In addition, Australia has an interesting advantage for the investigation: "it is a nation in which a great mixture of cultures with British, Southeast, American and European influences is represented", explain the researchers, belonging to different universities in the United States.
- Does the study reflect a new reality?
Another key that can explain the novel results is that it is possible that things are really changing. Among the data of the study, it is seen that the behavior of younger women is indistinguishable from that of younger men. "Therefore, it could be that the traditional negotiation style has begun to change," the researchers venture. "This is a hopeful explanation of why our findings differ from others. Another is that our data set is based on the actual behavior of employees, not laboratory experiments or surveys. "
Although the conclusions are novel, they are not unique in the world. There have been some previous indications that the behavior of women regarding the way of negotiating is not so different from that of men. In the field experiment Do women avoid wage negotiations? In 2012, researchers Andreas Leibbrandt and John List do not find any disparity between men and women when workers are explicitly told that wages are negotiable. However, when that aspect is not mentioned and the negotiating rules are ambiguous, men tend to negotiate higher wages.
- There are also no differences between your behavior in the office
Taking into account the patterns detected, it seems that the problem is not that women do not dare to ask, but that their requests are treated differently from those of men. It is a conclusion similar to that reached by Stephen Turban, Laura Freeman and Ben Waber during similar research supported by Harvard University. According to their conclusions, men and women behave the same in the workplace, differences in salary and access to high positions do not reside in how women act, but in how others perceive their actions.
Over four months, the researchers collected data from hundreds of employees and distributed 100 sensors that measured the person's behavior: they recorded the communication patterns using sensors that measure movement, proximity to other sensors and speech (volume and tone of voice, but not content). They were able to find out who spoke with whom, where these people communicated and who dominated the conversations. They worked with the anonymous data, without knowing the identity of the people but controlling the sex and the position of each participant.
"Our analysis suggests that the difference in promotion rates between men and women in this company was due, not to their behavior, but to the way they were treated"This indicates that gender inequality is due to prejudice, not behavioral differences, in this case, two groups of people are acting identically, but they are treated differently." Our data imply that gender differences may lie not in how women act, but in how people perceive their actions, "they explain." If women talk to the high commanders at rates similar to those of men, then the problem is not the lack of access, but the way in which those conversations are seen. "It is clear that it is not true that they ask for less increases and that it is not an excuse to explain why they receive them less often.