This throws a wrench into the workings of the commonly expressed idea that women are less likely to negotiate. The latter idea was popularised by economics professor Linda Babcock, who, in 2003, wrote a book titled Women Don’t Ask. Babcock didn’t think that there were any innate reasons for this, rather, she suggested that this reluctance to ask for higher salaries was a trait acquired through social conditioning. Numerous studies since then appeared to confirm the idea.
So, what has this newer study found that previous researchers missed?
For starters, they had much more data available. This revealed several key points: First, women find themselves more often than men in jobs where you can’t even negotiate for salary to begin with, for example low-skill hourly wage jobs or part-time positions. Previous studies following Babcock’s line of reasoning didn’t account for that fact. Hence, the women they interviewed worked disproportionately often in places where women couldn’t even have asked for higher salaries even if they had the will to do so, which skewed the results.
If you zoom in on industries where salaries are negotiable, men and women ask for raises at the same rate.
Since the 2017 study, another one has confirmed this pattern in a survey of 64,000 North American workers. The kicker? In that one, women actually asked more often than men. But if they did, they were more likely to be refused (or even suffer negative consequences for asking).