Quick hit: One reason women make less money

This won’t be news to anyone who’s read Women Don’t Ask, but it’s worth revisiting. There’s this thread going on Reddit entitled I work for a large multinational tech company, I regularly hire woman for 65% to 75% of what males make. I am sick of it, here is why it happens, and how you can avoid it.

Here’s a quote:

Our process, despite the pay gap, is identical for men and women. We start with phone interviews, and move into a personal and technical interview. Once a candidate passes both of those, we start salary negotiations. This is where the women seem to come in last.

The reason they don’t keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

The next major mistake happens with how they ask for more.

Read the rest here.

NOTE: I do not work for a large multinational company. I am quoting someone else who does. (People often seem to get confused when I quote people who are talking in the first person, so this is a reminder before you comment — if you want to talk to the original poster, go to Reddit rather than posting here.)

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About terriko

Terri has a PhD in horribleness, assuming we can all agree that web security is kind of horrible. She stopped working on skynet (err, automated program repair and AI) before robots from the future came to kill her and got a job in open source, which at least sounds safer. Now, she gets paid to break things and tell people they're wrong, and maybe help fix things so that people won't agree so readily with the first sentence of this bio in the future. Terri writes/tweets under the name terriko, enjoys making things and mentoring others and has a plain ol' home page at http://terri.toybox.ca.

17 thoughts on “Quick hit: One reason women make less money

  1. Yatima

    God, it’s so true, and it’s so hard to overcome. Here’s what I did the first time I went in and negotiated a raise: I had lunch with one of my female mentors, and she role-played me through the conversation (may her name live in glory forever.) I had my hands clasped on the table during the actual negotiation so that no one would see how much they were shaking. My mentor and I had figured out a suitably absurdly high number to kick off the haggling…

    …and my company met it without turning a hair.

    It was a learning experience.

  2. Teaspoon

    That’s a start, as far as it goes, but I think there’s some nuance missing from that thread. It seems easy to blame the women for simply not asking for more money, and to “solve” the problem by instructing women to change their behavior, but there remains a societal structure that actually punishes women for trying to negotiate for a better salary. Women who do so are often viewed as “too aggressive”, even when those making the offer know that it is deliberately low.

    I don’t know how many links it takes to trigger the spam trap, so I’ll just leave this link to an annotated bibliography from Hunter/CUNY, which lists several studies that include at least some exploration of how there’s more to it than whether women ask or not. http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/genderequity/equityMaterials/Dec2010/urnegotiation.pdf

    (I started this comment a while ago, so it’s possible someone has brought this up in that thread in the meantime.)

    1. Teaspoon

      Ah, someone did bring it up, but somehow or other that subthread was collapsed and I missed it. Still, it’s worth a mention, I think.

    2. Meg

      Not to mention, that I believe the real problem is salary negotiations that reward over-inflated egos and assholish behavior. Not that I have a solution for that, but if I am ever hiring people I will be very tempted to offer the fair salary I would like to pay them and then not negotiate. I know I will end up paying more over-all, but at least I won’t be doing it by screwing over my employees.

  3. J

    I’ve had one friend accept a position without ever even asking what she would be paid. I had another friend accept the offer without question. The problem seemed to be that neither of them seemed to think they *deserved* more, or that the offer was good enough and fair enough, so why ask for more?

    It’s been very frustrating as I hear more and more stories of women who simply accept the offer without even thinking about it. Any negotiating would be better than none at all.

    1. Kim Curry

      When I did my internship, the training that we all went through (male and female) said *if you have another offer* to be sure to get back to them and see if they can meet it. Of course, this was HR talking up front, but they didn’t say “just ask for more and we’ll consider it.”

  4. Meg

    Sadly the offered solution always seems to be to blame women for not demanding more, despite at least one well-known study showing that women who try to negotiate salary are judged more harshly for it than men. Another option is for companies to simply offer a fair wage in the first place. It’s gross how many companies are constantly trying to get one over on their employees and then expect hard work and loyalty in return. For some reason, we take it as a given that companies will behave in the most self-serving way possible at all times, even to the point of outright human rights violations (polluting drinking water, running sweatshops, etc). I think this needs to change in a big way. The economy should exist to further life, not the other way around.

    And yep, I do believe it’s discriminatory to make and follow policies that you know disproportionately harm one class of people over others. She says she feels dirty for doing it; that’s because it’s wrong.

    1. Addie

      This is exactly my view on the matter as well. I’ve fine-tuned my negotiation skills over the last few years because it’s a realistic short-term fix, but I also know that I can’t truly ask as aggressively as some men do, and ultimately it still allows a system that unfairly supports the most arrogant and demanding over others. It shows how little companies actually value their employees from the outset.

  5. John

    I got my present job through a recruitment agent, and he negotiated my salary far more aggressively than I would have done myself. Might this be a good route for women to try if they’re not confident about the negotation? Agents (in the UK) get paid a percentage of the first year’s salary so it’s to their advantage to get you the best offer.

  6. Katherine

    And what happens when you ask for a number that is much too big? Companies just give you that? Or do they think you’re uppity and hire someone else? I’m not asking you specifically Terri, I know you didn’t write the piece; and I have no desire to engage with redditors. I just remember overhearing a conversation between my manager and someone else at my old job saying how they definitely weren’t interested in hiring the person they just interviewed because they wanted way too much money and thought too highly of themselves. They thought that the person they interviewed would probably have other unreasonable demands too. And yes, the person they had just interviewed was a woman.

    I don’t see why companies don’t either pay people in the same jobs the same, or if they are as self-serving as people claim, why they don’t just not hire the men who ask for unreasonable amounts? Another thing they can do is regular performance reviews, with raises based on the performance, not based on how often people ask for raises. I pretty much only work at companies that have regular performance reviews for this very reason.

    1. Cheryl

      In my experience, when I’ve asked for more salary than they were willing to give me, they just said they couldn’t give me that much, but did not rescind the offer. I generally didn’t talk numbers until they were ready to make me an offer, which meant I didn’t end up with the ‘unreasonable demands’ scenario you’ve described.

      That said, the last time I tried negotiating a higher salary, the company stuck with their intial offer and refused to budge at all. I was taking a pay cut to take the job, and I later found that the men hired around the same time managed to negotiate higher salaries or more stock options for themselves (this was in the late nineties, when stock options at tech companies still had the potential to mean something). The one significant raise I got in five years of working there was when a (male) manager was willing to go to bat for me, even though this was a company that did performance reviews every six months & raises were supposedly tied to the reviews. I was eventually laid off, as were most of the women and minorities who had the temerity to ask that we be paid as much as our white male peers — we were seen as troublemakers.

      It doesn’t surprise me that some women don’t bother to negotiate; it’s been my experience that those negotiations don’t guarantee results the way people claim they do for men. (which makes me wonder, does negotiation *really* work that flawlessly for men? Or do we just hear from the ones it works for, and the ones for whom it don’t just don’t speak up?)

      The hiring process is done by humans, and the people doing the hiring are manipulable. And particularly in m0re-technical fields, those humans are often impressed by arrogance in men (and, sadly, frightened by confidence in women).

    2. Mary

      Yes, I also know of women who haven’t been made an offer at all because they asked for a very high salary. It’s a good reason not to name the first number: if the company names it, you at least know from their figure if you’re playing in the same ballpark.

      Salary surveys are useful for finding out what is high but not unheard of, particularly ones that break it down into, say, 25% bands.

      (Advice offered noting that I agree with people above: “women should ask, and risk the pushy woman penalty” may be a necessary strategy, but it’s not just.)

  7. Adria Richards

    It happens every single day. The more education you have, the more you stand to lose. A study estimates a woman with a high school education will lose $250k over a lifetime while a woman with a PHD stands to lose millions…literally!

    I read “Women Don’t Ask” in 2006 and it was a wake up call.

    My friends, both men and women have given the following excuses for not negotiating salary:
    – “It was more than I was going to ask for”
    – “It’s not the lowest they’re offering on the pay scale”
    – “I can expect to get a raise in ______ years”
    – “I can’t afford to lose the job to someone else willing to work for less”
    – “I don’t know how much to ask for”
    – “I wanted to make it to round two”

    It’s very uncomfortable to negotiate but it starts will looking for opportunities to get that practice in. One of my first negotiations after reading the book wasn’t for a job but to be able to store my lunch in the fridge at a testing center while I took a Microsoft exam. I was turned down at first and put my lunch in the car but after I came out of my first test (I think I did three that day), the fellow changed his mind and not only let me put my food in the fridge but eat in the employee area as well!

    It felt good to “win” a negotiation and since then, I’ve kept it up!

    ~ Adria Richards

    1. jon

      Agreed, I’ve given “Women Don’t Ask” to a lot of people and they’ve all found it useful. And negotiating does get a lot easier with practice.

      That said I also very much agree with the points Meg, Addie, Mary, and others made in this thread: a much better underlying fix would be for companies to be aware of the dynamic and change processes so that women could be paid fairly without requiring behavior change.

  8. Terri

    I’ve rarely seen it brought up in these discussions, but unionization is one of the ways workplaces can achieve better wage parity for women and minorities. Unions have a bit of a bad rap due to labour disruptions and the problems involved in firing anyone no matter how underperforming, but a union’s ability to negotiate for employees en-masse is often a net win for women, who then don’t need to negotiate nearly as much as individuals.

    I can’t imagine most companies *seeking out* unionization as a solution to wage issues, but I do wonder if some aspect of this group negotiation strategy might be useful for a larger-scale solution to the problem?

  9. Elizabeth G.

    When I was first starting out I had 4 offers 3 different cities. I knew which job I really wanted and it was the job with the lowest offer. I told them, “This is what the other offer is, can you match it or at least come up a little” I did this because I had already read that “Women don’t negotiate” and I felt like I had to, but I hated the whole discussion. They told me that the high offer was for a city with a much higher cost of living and to request that amount of money in their city was a little much. Looking back on it now, I see that this is a little bit BS because at the end of the day I wasn’t planning on living my entire life in their city and why should other people get to put more money into savings and retirement because of where they live for a few years in their 20s.
    I totally agree with the argument that women negotiating is viewed differently than men doing it, also when a large company tells you that this is what they pay people at “your” level you tend to believe them when you are 22. Finally, when you get an offer that is the same as the most your parents ever made after 30 years in their field(s) sometimes you feel like a jerk for asking for more. I honestly wish that guys were a little better at seeing how their actions make them look like jerks.

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