There is no gender pay gap, But that doesn’t mean the workplace is fair to women (3/3)

February 12, 2018

Gender Differences

While the biggest gender pay gap is not merely between men and women but rather between married women with children and everyone else, there is still a gender pay gap between single childless women and men. The gender pay gap between single (childless) women compared to men is $0.04, $0.96 for every man’s $1.00. So while it’s not dramatic, what might be the issue there? As we said in part one, “In discussing how we can make the workplace more women-friendly we have to have a discussion about the differences between men and women…”, let’s talk about a few differences that occur outside of marriage and babies.

Risk-taking Averse

For one, women are more risk-averse than men —on the whole, this is neither a good or bad thing, but in specific cases, it could be one or the other. In the case of asking for a raise and negotiating a salary our risk-aversion work against us and in favor of men.

A Harvard study concluded, “The authors found that when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men were more likely to negotiate than women,” when the wage negotiation was explicit women were just as likely as men to negotiate the salary. If we’re serious about closing the wage then more women need to be willing to take that risk. Now, we do have to acknowledge it is a risk, you can ask for too much and be denied a job and so it isn’t as if there aren’t negative consequences to taking that risk but women should at least know a negotiation is an option they can choose even if it’s not explicitly mentioned. And yes, of course, companies should explicitly state their salary as negotiable.

When women and men are offered jobs risk-taking behavior also plays a role, “A survey of masters’ students entering new jobs indicated that female students were likely to take the first offer of pay, while male students were eight times more likely to attempt negotiating a higher starting salary”. Ex-CEO Ellen Pat’s solution to this was to eliminate the possibility for salary negotiations in her company, as I mentioned in part 1 of this essay series, we cannot create so-called solutions that are essentially “Fairness for women and injustice to men”. We don’t need to discourage men from appropriate risk-taking we need to encourage women to take appropriate risks or at least teach them how to do so. This is a skill that should be taught in high school, college or career training programs. Once women know how to successfully take the risk they can choose to do so or not, that would level the playing field in a way that benefits women but does not hurt men.

$.24 vs $.04

There is newer research that suggests men and women ask for raises at the same rate and women are simply given raises less often or given negative feedback after asking, but most of the research on this subject overwhelming reports that is not the case, men ask far more —so we ought to take this newer research with a grain of salt until there are more studies with similar outcomes. This is not to deny the existence of sexism as a force that holds women back, the lack of support for mothers is a form of sexism, “But the failure to negotiate higher pay is crucial. Research shows men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary raise.”

Women have to be taught how to assess and take appropriate risks in the workplace, this is not a skill that comes naturally to us —and in many cases, that’s a good thing, but in the workplace, a little risk-taking pays off. Yet, we must remember that when we rule motherhood out of the equation we are only talking about a $.04 gap —important but not as significant as a $0.24 gap. And when we focus on only the wage gap we’re missing out on a much bigger issue, workplaces that don’t accommodate women with families, workplaces that force them to choose between family and work, a choice that isn’t fair to women or their families. We can and must do better than that.



+Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion,

+Why Men Are 3 Times More Likely Than Women to Succeed in Salary Negotiations,

+Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence from a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment,

+Research Stating ‘Women Ask For Pay Raises As Much As Men’ Is Misleading,

+Ask For A Raise? Most Women Hesitate, 

+How to Fix Feminism,

1 Comment

  • Sara

    I enjoyed reading this! I gained some interesting new insight 🙂. I would like to see more value placed on building more work environments that are family friendly, not just for moms but fathers as well. I would like to add that because in our society we don’t talk about wages it’s hard to know if what you are getting paid is fair. For example, a co-worker of mine found out she was making the same as a new hire who was male. She is a CPA and has her masters the man only has a bachelors degree. When she brought this up to her boss he said that he believed her pay rate was fair and didn’t think she would be paid more even at another company. She applied for jobs else where, eventually landing another job that paid more. She put in her two week notice and left. My point is that pay should be based on merit, instead of what you think a person is worth.

    Lastly, I find it frustrating that women get penalized for time off due to pregnancy or taking care of their children. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. Thank you!

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