Women Do Ask — They Just Don’t Receive

A new study challenges the idea that women earn less because they don't negotiate as often for raises and promotions as their male counterparts.

gender_payFor several years now, we’ve highlighted the fact that female event professionals earn less than their male counterparts according to Convene‘s Annual Salary Survey results — reflecting a persistent gender pay gap in the larger workforce.

Those who have studied this issue say that women’s discomfort with negotiating for themselves — even when they are skilled negotiators for their organizations — contributes to this divide. Indeed, Sara Laschever, coauthor of Women Don’t Ask and Ask for It, told Ashley Milne-Tyte in a recent Convene podcast that the women in the meetings industry are a perfect example of that: Because women have been conditioned by society and/or are genetically predisposed to take care of others (and at its core, that describes a meeting organizer’s role), they are better at negotiating on their employer’s behalf than their own.

new study throws some cold water on the notion that women don’t ask. According to the study’s random sample of around 4,500 workers across 800 employers in Australia — the only country that gathers data on employees’ requests for raises — women ask for raises or promotions at about the same rate as their male colleagues, but they still get what they want less often. A recent Fast Company article by female leadership activist Gloria Feldt says the study’s results shift the burden from professional women to their employers: “These days, it appears that closing the pay gap may be less about changing the ways women have been raised to understand the value of their work and more about how their employers react to women’s improving negotiating skills.”

In a way, I find that both a relief (I’m not making more because I haven’t negotiated well) and a disappointment (I’m not making more because I actually have less control over the situation than we had thought). But don’t give up, Fast Company’s Feldt advises. Know your own worth and continue to be your own advocate. It takes courage, she writes, “to own the responsibility for fixing something, even if you don’t have total authority to — and to make decisions even when you can’t guarantee the outcomes.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.