Women Don’t Make More Because They Still Don’t Ask – And Then, When They Do, They Are Penalized For It

Women don’t ask.  They don’t ask for raises and promotions and better job opportunities.  They don’t ask for recognition for the good work they do.  They don’t ask for more help at home.  In other words, women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want.
Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide


This really is an amazingly difficult unfairness.  I presented the excellent book, Women Don’t Ask, back at the February, 2004 First Friday Book Synopsis.  My colleague Karl Krayer presented their next book, Ask For it, at the May, 2009 First Friday Book Synopsis.  The authors, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, have been pounding away at this simple truth:  women don’t make as much as men because they don’t ask for it.

And now, after championing this one simple truth, they have made another discovery:  women who do ask for it are penalized for asking – because it is not a “feminine trait” to aggressively ask.  So, not only do women have to start asking for more money, they have to learn to ask like a woman should ask.

Al of this was part of an excellent segment yesterday on All Things Considered.  (Read the transcript, and listen to the segment, here).

Linda Babcock

Here are some key excerpts:

In the face of a persistent gender pay gap, researchers and women’s advocates are focusing on one little-discussed part of the problem: Women simply don’t ask for more money.
“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime,” Linda Babcock says.

And so – just ask – right?  Not so fast:

Babcock showed people videos of men and women asking for a raise, following the exact same script. People liked the man’s style and said, ‘Yes, pay him more.’ But the woman?
“People found that to be way too aggressive,” Babcock says. “She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman’s career.”
To be clear, both men and women thought this way.
Women can justify the request by saying their team leader, for example, thought they should ask for a raise. Or they can convince the boss their negotiating skills are good for the company. The trick, Babcock says, is to conform to a feminine stereotype: appear friendly, warm and concerned for others above yourself.
“I gotta say, that was very depressing!” she says with a laugh.

Here’s the challenge.  If you are a woman, learn to ask for more (more money; more opportunities; more accounts; more of everything); then ask; but, ask while conforming to a feminine stereotype.

As I said – this is an amazingly difficult unfairness.

2 thoughts on “Women Don’t Make More Because They Still Don’t Ask – And Then, When They Do, They Are Penalized For It

  1. Dani Ticktin Koplik

    Unfairness, perhaps, but totally consistent. I’ve thought a lot about gender roles and stereotypes but things really crystallized when I considered why the WNBA (and professional women’s sports in general) can’t gain traction and sell tickets.

    Large, strong women engaging in typically male pursuits fly in the face of something more potent and more deep rooted than just a stereotype: they go against very powerful ancient archetypes. Stereotypes are mostly artifacts that we cook up ourselves and that shift over time but archetypes are practically hard wired into our DNA. There is something inherently threatening — to men and women — uncomfortable and “unnatural” about genders acting against type. Our responses, then, occur on the primal rather than cognitive level, which is why they’re so difficult to uproot. I think exposing the archetype, along with understanding the differences between men and women in brain wiring, will ultimately allow us to start breaking them down from the inside out rather than the other way around.

  2. Randy Mayeux Post author

    Hi, Dani,
    As usual, you are thoughtful, and offer valuable insight.

    I suspect you are correct… and I think that is why Babcock is discovering this:
    “The trick, Babcock says, is to conform to a feminine stereotype: appear friendly, warm and concerned for others above yourself.”

    Thanks for reading and reflecting.


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