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Duly Noted

Friday, Jan 13, 2012, 3:40 pm

Asking For It: Raises, Promotions, and Gender

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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The conventional wisdom is that women earn less and rise slower in business because they don't ask for raises and promotions like men do.

In a new report, Nancy Carter and Christine Silva cast doubt on the stereotype of the woman who languishes professionally because she hesitates to advocate for herself:

Our recent Catalyst report, The Myth of the Ideal Worker , reveals that women do ask for raises and promotions. They just don’t get as much in return.

The research focused on career paths of high-potential men and women, drawing on thousands of MBA graduates from top schools around the world. Catalyst found that, among those who had moved on from their first post-MBA job, there was no significant difference in the proportion of women and men who asked for increased compensation or a higher position.

Yet the rewards were different.

Women who initiated such conversations and changed jobs post MBA experienced slower compensation growth than the women who stayed put. For men, on the other hand, it paid off to change jobs and negotiate for higher salaries—they earned more than men who stayed did. And we saw that as both men’s and women’s careers progress, the gender gap in level and pay gets even wider. [WaPo]

Carter and Silva, executives at Catalyst, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to advancing opportunites for women in business, argue that we need to reframe the discussion in light of their findings. The "women don't ask" paradigm focuses on what's wrong with individual women. They argue that the focus needs to shift to a discussion of how women get screwed:

If women are asking, but are still not advancing as quickly, maybe we need to frame things differently. Perhaps it’s not that women don’t ask—but that men don’t have to.

Are men being rewarded without even having to ask? Do women have to raise their hands and seek recognition to an even greater extent than men do, just to receive the same outcomes? Do women have to ask for the same thing multiple times before they get what they’re requesting? Do managers think women will accept a lower salary, while men will walk?

Kudos to the Washington Post for giving the authors space to discuss their research.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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