Research: Women Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but Are Less Likely to Get Them

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It’s a concrete fact that women earn less than men do. The true gender pay-gap is not known with certainty, but, when comparing equally qualified people doing the same job, most estimates by labor economists put it at 10% – 20%.  The crucial question remains its cause. One common explanation is that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries. We’ve seen this in both bestselling business memoirs like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and in previous studies like the research-based Women Don’t Ask.

Gaining access to a more recent, and more detailed, dataset allowed us to investigate this question anew. What we found contradicts previous research. 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,

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Back in September with Season Two!

We’re delighted to be making more episodes of Women at Work for you.

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Help shape our conversations by responding to these questions. You can answer as few or as many as you’d like:

  • What work decisions do you struggle with? Do you overthink? Stress about making the best choice? Is there a strategy you’ve found useful in making complex decisions? Ever wonder if being a woman influences your decision making?
  • Tell us about a time when a colleague took credit for your idea: What happened? How did it make you feel? Did you speak up about it? And what about when you’ve made it clear that you alone were behind a success: How did you do it? How did taking ownership make you feel? What questions do you have about claiming credit?

It’s Not Always Clear What Constitutes Sexual Harassment. Use This Tool to Navigate the Gray Areas.

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The #MeToo movement started by activist Tarana Burke gained momentum in October of 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano invited women on Twitter to respond “me too” to her tweet if they’d experienced sexual harassment or abuse. Women did so across social media, telling their stories and revealing the extent to which so many had lived in silence.

The Time’s Up movement was founded shortly thereafter to foster fairness, safety, and equity for women in the workplace. Part of its purpose is to alter the power system that favors men and thereby provides a foundation for discrimination and hostility toward women.

The passion was palpable. A cultural shift had taken place, and not just for women. Men began to consider their roles; some engaged in soul searching, wondering if they’d done enough as bystanders to stop sexual misconduct directed at women. Others, however, felt threatened. They worried

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What’s Holding Women in Medicine Back from Leadership

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Reza Estakhrian/Getty Images

For over 25 years, women have made up at least 40% of U.S. medical students. This past year, more women than men were enrolled in U.S. medical schools. Yet overall women make up only 34% of physicians in the U.S., and gender parity is still not reflected in medical leadership. Women account for only 18% of hospital CEOs and 16% of all deans and department chairs in the U.S.—positions that typically direct the mission and control the resources at medical centers.  Women are also in the minority when it comes to senior authorship (10%) and Editors-In-Chief (7%) at prestigious medical journals.

Reasons for gender disparities in the C-suite of medicine are manifold. For example, women do not achieve promotions or advancement to leadership positions at the same rate as their male peers.  Highly qualified women do

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Why Workplaces Need to Be Fairer to Working Dads

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Each year around Father’s Day, some businesses take a moment to express well wishes for the working dads among the staff. Unfortunately, that sensibility is too often short-lived.

Seventy-three percent of U.S. working fathers say there is little workplace support for fathers, according to a new survey from Promundo and Dove Men+Care. (I have a partnership with the latter and had the chance to weigh in on some of the questions as the survey was developed.)

It gets worse. Not only do many men fear negative repercussions if they were to take the full amount of paternity leave available to them, but 21% fear that they would lose their job if they did so.

This fear is sadly well founded. It’s based on cases in which this has actually happened. In my book All In, I told the story of a lawyer who took

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In Interviews, Female CEOs Say They Don’t Expect Much Support — at Home or at Work

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Women who have already made it to the top say that the only person who will get you there is yourself.

While many researchers and observers have examined the structural and other barriers that limit women’s progress through the ranks, we wanted to explore a different question: how have the few women who have made it to the very top overcome those barriers? Our aim was to discover how female CEOs explain their own success, and to develop recommendations for supporting women’s leadership careers more generally.

We embarked on an in-depth study of the leadership journey of 12 female CEOs, most of whom lead large, global corporations. This was part of a larger study on the same topic, covering a total of 151 global CEOs — 12 female and 139 male. According to Grant Thornton (2016), globally, only 9% of women in senior management are

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Your Flex Work Culture Doesn’t Help Employees If It Hurts Their Careers

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Ian Nolan/Getty Images

When you think about who needs flexibility at work to manage personal and family responsibilities, who comes to mind? If you are like most people, you envision a working mom.

The prevailing assumption is that working mothers are the ones who want and need flexibility at work. To be sure, many working mothers still shoulder the daunting double shift of full-time work and primary child care responsibilities, and many likely want jobs that give them more flexibility to juggle these important responsibilities. Nearly two decades of research shows that working flexibly is akin to a career torpedo for many working moms: Those who do it are often “mommy-tracked” into less demanding, lower-paying positions, and in the worst-case scenarios, they’re pushed out of their jobs entirely.

But we suspected that flexibility is not just a “woman’s issue.” Everyone needs flexibility at some point in their careers, whether to

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What Managers Can Do to Keep Women in Engineering

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Engineering faces a serious gender-based retention problem. Despite all the efforts encouraging women to study engineering, over 40% of highly skilled women who enter the field end up leaving. Much has been written about why women in the field leave, but we wanted to better understand what encourages some women to stay.

In 2014 we interviewed 34 women engineers in two FTSE 100 firms in the UK. Ten of the engineers were in the early stages of their careers, 19 were mid-career, and five were in late career. Over 80% had undergraduate degrees, and 43% had children. The two companies they worked for were PET and TTD (both pseudonyms). PET supplies fuel, energy, lubricants, and petrochemicals, while TTD is one of the world’s leading suppliers of gas and diesel engines.

PET’s engineering workforce was about 12% women, and TTD’s was about 9%. Both have intransigently masculine cultures but have been

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Research: How Sexual Harassment Affects a Company’s Public Image

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The wave of sexual harassment reports in recent months has resulted in the dethroning of high-profile men in media and entertainment, sports, business, and politics. At the same time, social media, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, have made public conversation about the issue hyper visible and easier to organize — as was the case for the #MeToo movement.

Unsurprisingly, companies are now frantically reevaluating their anti-harassment policies and introducing mandatory trainings — in part to prevent sexual harassment and subsequent public backlash, at any cost.  But what can research tell us about the general public’s responses to sexual harassment claims? How do sexual harassment claims shape perceptions of organizational gender equity broadly? How do sexual harassment claims differ from claims about other forms of misconduct, such as financial fraud? We sought to answer these questions in a series of experiments, with approximately 1,500 participants in the

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How Companies Can Identify Racial and Gender Bias in Their Customer Service

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Jurgen Ziewe/Getty Images

In April 2017, United Airlines encountered public outrage when an Asian passenger was dragged out of his seat and off of an overbooked United Airlines plane. Then, almost exactly one year later, two black patrons were arrested at a Starbucks store for sitting at a table without having made a purchase. Both events were recorded, uploaded to social media, shared widely, and broadly condemned as instances of racial bias.

These two incidents may seem extreme. However, our research suggests that they are manifestations of a much more prevalent phenomenon. In one set of studies, currently in working paper format, we found that minority customers — blacks and Asians — regularly receive worse customer service than whites in ways that are not immediately obvious to onlookers (or even managers). Specifically, we audited 6,000 hotels in the U.S. by sending email inquiries from fictitious email accounts that signaled

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The Different Words We Use to Describe Male and Female Leaders

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We like to think of ourselves as unbiased and objective in our employment decisions, but with two equal candidates, who are you going to promote? Someone who is described in their performance evaluations as analytical or someone who is described as compassionate? On the other end of the employment spectrum, if you’re downsizing and have to fire someone and the two people in jeopardy are very similar, who are you going to fire? Someone perceived as arrogant or someone perceived as inept? Leadership attributions in performance evaluations are powerful.

A unique and fascinating data set allowed us to explore the language used to describe individuals in subjective performance evaluations and provides evidence that, as we suspected, language in performance evaluations is applied differently to describe men and women. We analyzed a large-scale military dataset (over 4,000 participants and 81,000 evaluations) to examine objective and subjective performance measures

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Why It’s So Hard to Speak Up Against a Toxic Culture

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Alexander Crispin/Getty Images

Frustrated by the behavior of some men in their workplace, a group of women working at Nike anonymously surveyed other women colleagues a few months ago about their perceptions of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the company. The results painted a clear picture of a workplace where women often felt marginalized, disrespected, and discriminated against. The survey reached the hands of the company’s CEO. What followed, as covered in the media, has been a serious wave of changes: Top executives at the firm resigned or are on their way out, and bias training and other remedies are being introduced.

The gesture by the Nike workers may seem dramatic, but it was the result of women being ignored by HR as they voiced their concerns. Their experience is not unique. Those working in HR departments have the responsibility to assure that people are treated fairly at

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Denmark Has Great Maternity Leave and Child Care Policies. So Why Aren’t More Women Advancing?

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In Denmark, we are well known for our welfare system — a system that is supposed to give women and men equal access to the job market and equal possibilities of making a career. We have daycare, schools, and other public institutions at the top of global rankings. Both men and women have great opportunities to have their loved ones (whether children or elderly relatives) taken care of during the daytime, allowing them to work. These institutions help us secure a high level of gender equality in the job market. We are often listed as being in top of the class when it comes to equal access to education, and the standard of our education is high. More Danish women complete higher education than Danish men.

Given all of this, we rank surprisingly low — 80th in the world — when it comes to leveling out the gender gap in

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Interviews with 59 Black Female Executives Explore Intersectional Invisibility and Strategies to Overcome It

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HBR Staff

Black women continue to be sorely underrepresented in leadership roles in corporate America. Currently, they make up 12.7% of the U.S. population, yet they represent only 1.3% of senior management and executive roles of S&P 500 firms, 2.2% of Fortune 500 boards of directors, and in a post-Ursula Burns world, there is not a single black female CEO in the Fortune 500.

Despite this underrepresentation, a small subset of black women have found success as leaders and played key roles in driving organizational change. We conducted in-depth interviews with 59 black women executives who have occupied senior-level positions in U.S. corporations. We sought to understand the barriers they faced, their strategies for ascending through the organization, and the tools they used to manage significant organizational change efforts and navigate career risks.

We conducted interviews around the years 2007 and 2014 — one year before

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4 Ways Women Can Break Barriers by Breaking the Rules

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One evening in February 2016, writer and filmmaker Ava DuVernay met with two top Disney executives about the possibility of directing an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel A Wrinkle in Time. DuVernay, 44 at the time, had overcome many challenges to reach that moment. She had launched her career 12 years earlier with no connections — she just picked up a camera and started making small-budget films, including one she financed out of her own savings account. She achieved a big breakthrough with Selma, the first film directed by an African American woman to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

But even as she moved into positions of authority, DuVernay found that men continued to question her leadership and invade her personal space. When working on set, she regularly wore a hat to avoid “hair touches” from others and glasses so that people could not misinterpret

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6 Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common

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For years, companies, universities and nonprofits have researched the reasons why women are less likely to enter STEM fields — and why, once they enter, they face challenges that frequently push them out. In prior research, we at the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that women leave STEM fields in droves: 52% of highly qualified women working for science, technology, or engineering companies leave their jobs. We, and others, have found that the cultures surrounding women in STEM have been shown, time and again, to be particularly challenging.

Yet many other women have managed to build highly successful careers with degrees in STEM disciplines. How did they do it? A new research study I led at CTI uncovers, through a nationally representative survey of 3,212 individuals with STEM credentials, and through dozens of additional interviews and focus group conversations, the differentiators of success for women

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To Reduce Sexual Misconduct, Help People Understand How Their Advances Might Be Received

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The revelations of the #MeToo movement seem to have caught many men by surprise. Comedian Aziz Ansari was “surprised and concerned,” believing his encounter with a woman to be “by all indications completely consensual.” Well-known actor Richard Dreyfus was “bewildered to discover” an incident wasn’t consensual, leading him to “reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.”

Although there are numerous explanations for the widespread sexual harassment and assault allegations that have recently come to light across various industries, in our research we have identified one potential contributor related to the psychology of avowed unwitting perpetrators: a cognitive blind spot that makes them oblivious to how trapped their unwanted advances can make their targets feel.

In two studies soon to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, we found that romantic suitors generally underestimate the discomfort

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How Women at the Top Can Renew Their Mental Energy

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tomas robertson/unsplash

For women with leadership ambitions, there is no shortage of advice for how to reach the top. By learning to lean in, speak out, negotiate, delegate, and a dozen other behaviors, women everywhere are launching themselves through the glass ceilings of their organizations, landing jobs at or near the C-suite level.

But what happens after the promotion? While top-level jobs are tough on everyone, the transition to senior management comes with extra challenges for women. Some are psychological, pertaining to gender differences in risk-taking and self-confidence. Others are structural; in parenting, for instance, childcare and domestic duties are still disproportionately shouldered by the female partner. While these barriers affect women at all levels of the organization, they are particularly pronounced in the pressure-cooker environment at the top, putting women at a disadvantage.

Dealing with this challenge is something I am deeply familiar with. I am a certified organizational

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Black Professional Men Describe What It’s Like to Be in the Gender Majority but the Racial Minority

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PM Images/Getty Images

It’s no secret that black people are widely underrepresented in the highest-status professional jobs. Even when they have Harvard MBAs, black women are generally absent in leadership positions at most Fortune 500 companies, and black men are in high-ranking roles in only a handful.

Researchers who have examined black women in corporate settings generally highlight their unique experiences not just as black workers but as black women workers. Dealing with racism and sexism means that black women in these settings face particular challenges at work, from difficulty finding mentors and sponsors to extra scrutiny of their hair and other aspects of their appearance.

These are important findings that give some insight into how race and gender operate together to yield specific outcomes for black women. But they only reveal part of the picture for black workers. Black men, of course, are also present in professional work. How are their experiences in these settings

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Do You Have “Advantage Blindness”?

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Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

No one wants to think they got to the top through an unfair advantage. You want to feel that you’ve earned it — that your hard work and carefully honed skills have paid off.

But the evidence on diversity in the workplace is conclusive: There are lots of people held back by bias. And that means that some of the people at the top have advanced partly through privilege.

Our research finds the idea of being advantaged to be uncomfortable for many senior leaders. We interviewed David, a senior executive who recognizes both having benefited from unfair advantages and the injustice of bias. He’s tall, middle-aged, well-educated, heterosexual, able-bodied, white, and male — and these provide David with unearned advantages that he intellectually knows he has, but that in practice he barely notices. He tells us he feels an underlying sense of guilt. He wants to feel that his successes

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