Women don't receive raises as often as men, a new study finds, but it's not for lack of trying.
Research published in the journal Industrial Relations found that both men and women ask for raises at the same rate — yet men are more likely to receive what they asked for. The study's authors examined data from the Australian Workplace Relations survey, which asked 4,600 people in around 800 workplaces if they asked for a raise and how their employers responded to the request.
The study pushed back against the common argument that men receive more raises because they are more likely to ask for one.
“Until our study, the prevailing wisdom for women was to simply speak up, know their high value to their employers and ask for raises as often as their male colleagues," study author Benjamin Artz said in a press release. "Unfortunately, our research suggests that this approach may not work and we need to dive deeper for that reasoning."
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Specifically, it found that men get a raise about 20 percent of the time they ask, while women get a raise just 15 percent of the time.
"While that may sound like a modest difference," the researchers wrote in The Harvard Business Review, "over a lifetime it really adds up."
For the study, researchers examined responses to certain questions in the survey. Examples of those questions include: "Were you concerned about negative effects on your relationship with your manager/employer?" and “Have you attempted to attain a better wage/salary for yourself since you commenced employment with this employer?”
Artz, along with study co-authors Amanda Goodall and Andrew Oswald, wrote about some of his study's interesting findings in The Harvard Business-Review. The research indicated that there is no difference between men and women of the same educational level, they wrote, but younger women have just as much success as younger men in getting the raises they ask for.
The study co-authors said that last finding could indicate a changing trend for women in the workforce.
"It could be that negotiating behavior through the years has begun to change," they wrote. "Future research may be able to decide whether true changes are going on in the modern labor market.
"Perhaps the world really is beginning to transform."
But the researchers conceded "lots of different factors do seem to influence the rate of 'asking.'"
"Older workers do so more often," they wrote. "Long-tenured employees do so more often. Full-timers do so more often. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all part-timers, whether male or female, tend both to 'ask,' and to get, less often."
The study does have some significant caveats. It examines people located in Australia, so researchers noted that "the findings from our study might not apply elsewhere." But they also wrote that it's quite possible the findings would hold up in other countries because "Australia has the typical kind of gender pay gap."
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a government organization, estimates that the gender pay gap in the country sits at 15.3 percent. For comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that the gender pay gap was around 18 percent for American women in 2016.
Another potential flaw of the study is that men may be more willing to over-exaggerate how often they ask for a raise. Researchers theorized that they would do that "perhaps as part of a desire to appear assertive."