If you work hard and succeed, a pay raise will often be your corporate reward for a job well done. But these rewards are not equally distributed as the persistence of the gender pay gap shows. One solution women have been frequently offered? Just ask. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The gender pay gap exists not just because women simply aren’t asking for more money, a new survey of 70,000 employees found. The 2017 LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. study found that women are negotiating just as frequently as men for a pay raise, but unlike men, they face social penalties for trying. While men reported that they could get raises without even needing to ask, women said they had to ask to get their supervisors’ attention — and when they asked, they had to come prepared with numbers proving their worth to the company.
Across races, women and men were negotiating at similar rates in the past two years. In fact, senior-level women asked for raises more frequently than their male counterparts — but they were still coming up short. Women in the survey said that when they asked for raises, they received negative feedback for being “intimidating,” “too aggressive,” or “bossy.”
Studies: Women face social backlash asking for more money
While these assertive traits are not penalized in men, similar research has found that women who use the same negotiation tactics as men are negatively perceived as “pushy” or “assertive” under the biased thinking that nice girls don’t ask. This kind of thinking will follow female employees throughout their careers. At the hiring level, a 2008 study found that women are more likely than men to be judged on how they behave socially — as opposed to whether or not they can actually do a job — in hiring decisions.
To overcome these biases, the report outlined negotiation tactics women can use to get a raise.
How women can successfully ask for a raise…
The first hurdle for female employees is overcoming socially ingrained biases keeping you silent and stating what you’re worth to employers. Yes, there is a reputational risk for asking, but when women do ask, they are more than twice as likely to get a raise, the survey found.
2) Specify numbers
Just taking the initiative is not going to be enough to get a pay bump. Women were 25% more likely than men to say they didn’t ask for a specific number. But those that did mention specific numbers got results.
The exact amount of money that they asked for didn’t matter, according to the report, it just mattered that they mentioned a number.
3) Give a reason
Unlike men, who reported getting rewarded without much rationale at their companies, women will need to keep doing more to get that raise. Experts say that women get better results when they come prepared with information about industry standards; so research what others in your desired position make through networks.
One of the biggest mistakes careers experts say women make is not preparing what amount they are willing to accept and why.
Here are pitches that worked for employees in the survey: demonstrate that you’re a high performer or an employee who has taken on a greater workload or a worker who has taken their responsibilities to the next level.
How companies help make pay more fair
While individual women can use tactics like these to get ahead, the report makes recommendations for companies as well.
The most comprehensive way to make sure women get fairly compensated is for the structure of how raises happen at your company to be clearly described and followed, so that individual employees’ and managers’ biases can be eliminated from the process.
Sixty-six percent of the 222 companies employing more than 12 million people said they “require clear, objective metrics for evaluations.” That means regular reviews and evaluations that judge employees on what they’ve achieved, not how they subjectively act.
Other findings from the LeanIn report:
- 15% of men believe “My gender will make it harder to get a raise, promotion, or … get ahead”; 39% of women believe the same.
- 55% of men believe “In this company, disrespectful behavior toward women is often or always addressed quickly”; 34% of women believe the same.
- Nearly 50% of men think women are well represented in leadership in organizations where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman; one-third of women agree in the same situation.