Finally there is a growing body of research to substantiate what we all know: Women do ask for raises. We just don't get them.
Writing in The Cut on International Women's Day under the headline Actually, Women Do Ask for Money. They Just Don’t Get It., Otegha K. Uwagba, founder of Women Who, had this to say:
"Both McKinsey’s research and the Do Women Ask? study found that while men and women ask for pay raises at broadly similar rates, women are more likely to be refused or suffer blowback for daring to broach the topic. Depressing as these statistics are...they challenge the idea that women are at least partially to blame for wage inequality as a result of their actions (or lack thereof). They also reveal an uncomfortable truth about society’s propensity to assign blame to women for situations outside their control."
The McKinsey reports are from 2018 and 2016 and are equally eye opening. (You can sign up for the 2019 report here.) "For the last four years, companies have reported that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress. Women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. For women of color, it’s even worse. Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in twenty-five is a woman of color. Progress isn’t just slow—it’s stalled."
The Do Women Ask? study can be found here (paywall).
If the paywall prevents you from reading the research from Benjamin Artzt, Amanda Goodall, and Andrew J. Oswald in its nerdy entirety, they did you (us) a favor and published a very accessible overview in the Harvard Business Review a few months back: Research: Women Do Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but Are Less Likely to Get Them.
Here are the researchers in their own words:
"The bottom line of our study is that women do 'ask' just as often as men. They just don’t 'get.' Even we were surprised by the results. We had expected to find less asking by the females. Instead, we found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. While that may sound like a modest difference, over a lifetime it really adds up."
We believe in personal responsibility: In this case, we strongly encourage you to learn how to negotiate and then use those skills to advocate for yourself. This research shows that personal responsibility alone is not enough. All the *individual* asking in the world will not change the system, will not address the bias, and will not undo the economic damage of the gender wage gap.
So, yes, we need to ask our bosses for raises. But there is more. As Otegha K. Uwagba writes, "By buying into the 'women don’t ask' narrative, employers who should be doing more to rectify gender pay gaps in their own organizations get to ignore their role in fostering said gaps, and pass the buck back onto us." We need to work together to ask not only business leaders but also our Legislators to help us change the system. Making systemic changes stands to benefit everyone, not just individual women.