In Brief

Women do ask for pay rises but they don't get them

Gender pay gap: New research says idea that female workers lack confidence to push for more is a myth

Women are just as likely to ask for a pay rise as men are – but not to receive one, new research shows. 

It has long been suggested that one of the reasons women still earn less than men, 46 years after the UK's Equal Pay Act, is that they lack the confidence to push for a pay rise, not having been taught to be pushy as children.

But researchers from the Cass Business School in London, the University of Warwick and – in the US – the University of Wisconsin say they have proved the explanation is a myth.

After studying 4,600 Australian workers, the team has concluded that there is "no support" for the "reticent female" theory, says the BBC

The researchers say theirs is the first study to compare male and female pay on equal hours. Previous research has shown lower pay among women partly because they tend to work fewer hours, perhaps because they spend time looking after children.

Instead, the new study compares full-time women with full-time men – and part-time with part-time. On that basis, men are 25 per cent more likely than women to enjoy a pay rise, the researchers say.

The research is based on Australian data because no other country is thought to systematically record whether workers have asked for a pay increase. 

Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick says the findings have come as a surprise. He adds: "The fact that women don't ask for pay rises as often as men is a popular theory.

"It's a very common thing for women to say and believe, but all of the evidence is anecdotal, so it's very hard scientifically to do a proper test of this [but] having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women.

"It could be that Australia is odd. But it's a modern industrial economy halfway in character between Britain and the US, so I think that's unlikely."

According to HR Director magazine, previous explanations for the belief – now discredited – that women don't ask for pay rises were that "women don't want to deviate from a perceived female stereotype [or] may fear being less popular at work".

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