One short post ago I said that in recent articles about the persistent pay gap between men and women I hadn’t seen any mention about one reason for the difference: men are more likely to negotiate over their salary, and then go back in and ask for raises. My Slate colleague, Kate Julian, pointed me to a very good NPR story from a few months back on exactly this subject.
Jennifer Ludden explores women’s reluctance to ask for what we deserve and our distaste for haggling for more money. This costs us big. Over the course of a career, she reports, professional women can leave $1 million or more on the proverbial table. It turns out bosses love that women wait to be recognized and rewarded because that means they don’t have to give the money to us.
So the answer is, go and ask, right? Not so fast. It turns out that women being clear and direct about making the case for more money is so against the cultural norm that it is seen as distasteful. In one experiment Ludden cites, males and females were given the exact same script to ask for a raise. Observers, both male and female, found the woman grating and unpleasant! So should women ask in a more indirect, "feminine" way? If we do, no one will show us the money. I believe the only way out is to start asking confidently. Culture changes, and the way it does is by making what was unthinkable the new normal.