Source: eHealth

Is Passiveness in Wage Negotiations to Blame for Pay Gap?

November 23, 2018

Written by: Gabby Chia

If you’re a woman tirelessly trying to make your way up the pecking order, you’ve likely heard the argument – possibly even from friends or family members – that women do not advance at the same rate as men in high profile companies due to their lack of action or aggression when negotiating advancement. Some might choose to accept this statement, others who have faced discrimination first hand in the workforce may not be so easily convinced. In fact, studies show that men and women request pay raises at the same or similar frequency, but women are more often passed over. 

Source: Pixabay

Why, you might ask, is it that people will so easily accept the idea that a women’s own passiveness would be the reason for the gender pay disparity? A number of factors may contribute to this mindset. One explanation could suggest that people do not want to believe that the system has biases like sexism. Therefore, they shift the blame away from the employer and their structuring of placement, and displace the issue onto the one who wishes to advance. Living in an urbanized society gives us access to a pool of opportunities while simultaneously increases competition within a small sector, thereby limiting opportunities. This tension, along with a multitude of tensions that come along with urbanized living, create a phenomenon where we choose to believe we live in comfort, denying the uncomfortable. Therefore, the issue is not the system in which our society works, but the lack of drive, aggression, qualifications, etc. of the individual. This ideology minimizes the issue to a singular person rather than taking responsibility for the magnitude of the problem

Source: Robert Neubecker

“Do you really think they wouldn’t advance you just because of your gender? The other candidate was probably more qualified”. Another argument people tend to make are that a women’s lack of qualification or skills in the field are to be blamed for their position. Qualifications are a valid reason to be passed over, however, studies [1][2] have shown that even if male and female candidates have the same qualifications, the male would more often receive the raise than the female candidate. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum Report published in 2014, in no country do women make as much as men for the same work. On the other hand, researchers did find that younger women received raises just as often as men. This could suggest that companies are becoming more progressive for the up-and-coming. Another explanation could suggest that women are becoming more resistant to discrimination and injustice. 

Source: RCI, Inc.

In a more recent study, Universum Global, a human resources consulting firm, released their findings from a 2017 survey based on over 530,000 business and STEM students. Participants rated their value after their first year of graduation by their expected yearly salary. In every country women expected to earn less than the amount expected by male participants.

Women in STEM in the United States estimated to earn $56,703 per year, while male STEM students expected $64,385. This would suggest women estimated their worth as a little more than 88% of the male’s estimation. These results suggest women expect this pay disparity prior to experiencing it. Additionally, women are often predisposed to biases that discredit the quality of their achievements, where men are often celebrated for producing the same quality of work, which could contribute to the lower number. This is not to say that all men are equally celebrated, as that is a separate issue on its own. Rather, women should receive the same acknowledgement for the same work. One might argue that this reinforces the idea of women’s passiveness in economic growth, if so, it still suggests that the issue is focused around the biases society places on women, rather than the individual themselves. It does not detract from the scope of the issue: that social influences effect pay disparity; nor does it offer a solution to the issue, especially when the Australian study on the frequency men and women employees asked for raises revealed either gender asked at the same frequency. Therefore, it is not likely that women are passive during pay negotiations, but rather, they are equally aggressive in their request for fair pay, but social influences effect the value people place on women, including themselves. 

Source: Advisors Magazine

There are many trials women in STEM must surpass when working in fields that remain male-dominated areas. Luckily the amount of attention raised around these issues have led large companies to create initiatives to ease the gap, but we still have a far way to go to eliminate inequality between gender wages. Do not let this deter you from pursuing STEM professions, but rather, use it as inspiration to defeat the odds and aid the movement to make gender pay disparity a clutch of the past. 

if you want to learn more about pay disparity, check out the resources on Candian women's Foundation, or read our blog post on women in stem and the economy!