Do Women Really Ask for Raises Less Frequently Than Men?

What Women Really Think
Oct. 30 2009 5:10 PM

Do Women Really Ask for Raises Less Frequently Than Men?


In the New York Times last week, Joanne Lipman declared that women's progress has stalled because " we've focused primarily on numbers at the expense of attitudes. " She tells one story with a precise tally: "In my time as an editor," she writes, "many, many men have come through my door asking for a raise or demanding a promotion. Guess how many women have ever asked me for a promotion? I'll tell you. Exactly ... zero." Reluctance to ask for a raise is, in Lipman's eyes, a problem of the prevalence of trying to be a "passive 'good girl.'"


Is she right that women don't ask for raises? Amanda Fortini, writing a response to Lipman on Salon , skewers the idea as "antiquated" and offers a counterexample: "My mother, who runs a marketing company, tells me her female employees do in fact ask for promotions and raises, often with a greater sense of entitlement than the men."

Who is right, in this sample-of-one face-off? Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, has done research on this question. In her book Women Don't Ask , Babcock and co-author Sara Laschever discuss studies and experiments they've conducted, which suggest there is, in fact, a pretty noticeable discrepancy between men and women's propensity to negotiate for a raise.

One study compared the starting salaries of students graduating with master's degrees from Carnegie Mellon, and found that men's starting salaries exceeded women's by an average of almost $4,000. Because these salaries were set before the men or women had started working, Babcock looked at the process for negotiating salaries and found something startling: while Carnegie Mellon's Career Services department strongly advised all students to negotiate for their starting pay, only 7 percent of women had asked for more money than their initial offer. In contrast, 57 percent of men-8 times as many-asked for more money. Moreover, Babcock calculated that the starting salary difference for those who negotiated was on average $4,053 higher than those who did not. That number-almost the exact discrepancy between the starting salary of men and women in general-suggested that if women had simply negotiated for higher starting offers the pay gap would have narrowed dramatically.

Babcock and her colleagues followed this finding with a laboratory experiment designed to test women's willingness to ask for more. The researchers asked students to play the game Boggle and told them they would receive between three and 10 dollars. After four rounds of playing, the game ended and a researcher would give the subject three dollars, saying "Here's three dollars. Is three dollars OK?" If the subject asked for more money, the experimenter would give him or her 10 dollars.

The result? Nine times more men than women asked for more money-a discrepancy similar to the one in the study on starting salary. The women in the study rated their own performance at Boggle as highly as men did, and complained as much about the low $3 rate. The only difference between them and the men was that the men were much more likely to ask for more pay. So Lipman was on to something.

Photograph of stacks of money by Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.