Is ‘Pure Discrimination’ to Blame for the Gender Pay Gap?

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New research offers an explanation for the gap between men's and women's pay -- and it might come down to simple bias.

New research offers an explanation for the gap between men’s and women’s pay — and it might come down to simple bias.

Prior possible explanations for why women are paid less than men include that women are less pushy or more fearful of upsetting their bosses.

It turns out, however, that women ask for raises as often as men do — but are 25 percent less likely to receive the pay hikes they request, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and the Cass Business School at the University of London.

The research — which included the first statistical test of the ideas that women earn less than men because they are less likely to ask for raises or fear for the quality of their workplace relationships — found no evidence for either explanation.

Instead, the research showed that when like-for-like men and women who requested raises were compared:

  • Men successfully obtained a raise 20 percent of the time.
  • Women successfully obtained a raise 16 percent of the time.

That difference amounts to men being 25 percent more likely to receive requested raises.

Co-author Andrew Oswald, professor of economics and behavioral science at the University of Warwick, concludes:

“Having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed Australian data on 4,600 workers at more than 800 employers.

Oswald calls Australia “the natural test bed, because it is the only country in the world to collect systematic information on whether employees have asked for a rise.”

Additionally, he tells CNN Money that other studies have shown Australia’s gender pay gap is around 15 percent, which he describes as “typical.” Australia also makes for a good testing ground because it is “a modern industrial economy, a mixture between Britain and the U.S.,” he says.

The findings were not all bad news for women, though. They show that younger Australian women received raises as often as younger Australian men.

Study co-author Amanda Goodall, an associate professor at Cass Business School, explains:

“This study potentially has an upside. Young women today are negotiating their pay and conditions more successfully than older females, and perhaps that will continue as they become more senior.”

Do you believe that discrimination is at the root of the gender pay gap? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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