Her Pay Gap Be­gins Right Af­ter Grad­u­a­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - Business - By Amy Joyce

For years, women have out­num­bered men on col­lege cam­puses. Over­all, they get bet­ter grades than men. And yet, just months af­ter they toss their mor­tar­boards into the air at col­lege grad­u­a­tion, men start to pull ahead of women in pay.

Though the pay gap be­tween men and women is well doc­u­mented, it is star­tling to dis­cover that it be­gins so soon. Ac­cord­ing to a new study by the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Women, women al­ready earn 20 per­cent less than men at the same level and in the same field one year af­ter col­lege grad­u­a­tion. Right at the be­gin­ning, be­fore tak­ing time off for child­birth or child- rear­ing, women find them­selves be­hind.

Of course, it only gets worse. To­day, women earn about 77 cents for ev­ery dol­lar a man earns, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus data, a fig­ure that has re­mained steady for about a decade. The gap is deeply en­trenched. The AAUW started study­ing the dis­par­ity in 1913, doc­u­ment­ing dif­fer­ent pay for men and women among fed­eral gov­ern­ment work­ers.

The latest study is un­usual be­cause it de­votes at­ten­tion to the first year out of school. “ We are look­ing at a younger group of peo­ple who have many sim­i­lar­i­ties,” said Catherine Hill, di­rec­tor of re­search for the AAUW. “ When they are just com­ing out of col­lege, we ex­pect to see fewer dif­fer­ences.”

The gap, start­ing early, only widens as time goes on, ac­cord­ing to the AAUW re­port “ Be­hind the Pay Gap,” re­leased Mon­day. Ten years af­ter grad­u­a­tion, women fall fur­ther be­hind, earn­ing 69 per­cent of what men earn. A 12 per­cent gap ap­peared even when the AAUW Ed­u­ca­tional Foun­da­tion, which did the re­search, con­trolled for hours, oc­cu­pa­tion, par­ent­hood and other fac­tors known to di­rectly af­fect earn­ings.

The re­main­der of the gap is un­ex­plained by any other con­trol fac­tors. That may mean, Hill said, that dis­crim­i­na­tion is the root cause. What to do? One word: Ne­go­ti­ate. While dis­crim­i­na­tion ac­counts for some of the dis­crep­ancy, said Linda Bab­cock, James M. Wal­ton pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics at Carnegie Mellon Univer­sity, women also suf­fer be­cause they have not been taught to ask for more. Bab­cock, co- au­thor of “ Women Don’t Ask: Ne­go­ti­a­tion and the Gen­der Di­vide,” ar­gues that women don’t ne­go­ti­ate enough, or many times, at all. She is not blam­ing women for cre­at­ing their own wage gap, she said, but rather, so­ci­ety, for rais­ing “ lit­tle girls to ac­cept the sta­tus quo.”

Bab­cock en­coun­tered such an ex­am­ple while watch­ing one of her daugh­ter’s fa­vorite television shows, “ Dragon Tales,” an an­i­mated PBS se­ries where a hu­man brother and sis­ter visit friends in Dragon Land. In one episode, the sis­ter wants to make friends with a group of dragon scouts. In­stead of just ask­ing, Bab­cock said, the girl used in­di­rect ways to fit in. She even­tu­ally suc­ceeded by urg­ing the scouts to join in team­work.

For Bab­cock, the show re­flected re­al­ity: Women are brought up to avoid ask­ing for any­thing di­rectly. And so what can women do? For one, re­al­ize that it’s not your fault, Bab­cock said. “ It’s lib­er­at­ing that it’s not some in­her­ent piece of my per­son­al­ity that I do this. Those are the voices that have been in my head over the years.”

In a widely cited study from 1979, first-, fourth-, sev­enth- and 10th- graders were given a set task, then asked to pay them­selves based on how well they thought they did. There was no dif­fer­ence be­tween the sexes in the eval­u­a­tions, but re­searchers found that in ev­ery grade, girls paid them­selves 30 per- cent to 78 per­cent less than boys did.

Bab­cock said women should use a “ co­op­er­a­tive ne­go­ti­a­tion style” to get what they want.

For ex­am­ple, don’t go to a man­ager and say, “ I have an­other job of­fer and un­less you match it, I’ll leave.” That approach would be seen as threat­en­ing from a wo­man, even if it could be ac­cepted from a man, Bab­cock said. So in­stead, re­frame it: “ I have this other of­fer, but I’d like to find a way to stay here. Can you match it so I can stay?”

Bab­cock also sug­gests prac­tice. It may take a while for a wo­man to get over what she has been taught. So be­fore ne­go­ti­at­ing, try some role- play­ing, she said. If you don’t, you may ask for a raise and con­cede too fast or not ne­go­ti­ate at all. To pre­pare, sit with a col­league who knows the boss. Then go through dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios and ways to ne­go­ti­ate un­til you be­come com­fort­able with the process, she said. “ We get most anx­ious when we don’t know what to ex­pect.”

And once women know a lit­tle about what to ex­pect, they may con­sider ask­ing for what they want, as their male coun­ter­parts typ­i­cally do.

Bab­cock con­ducted a study in 2002 that looked at start­ing salaries of stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from Carnegie Mellon Univer­sity with mas­ter’s de­grees. The start­ing salaries of men were 7.6 per­cent higher, or al­most $ 4,000 more, on av­er­age, than those of the women. It turned out, how­ever, that only 7 per­cent of the fe­male stu­dents had ne­go­ti­ated, but 57 per­cent of the men had asked for more money. The stu­dents who ne­go­ti­ated in­creased their start­ing salaries by 7.4 per­cent on av­er­age, or $ 4,053. That’s al­most ex­actly the dif­fer­ence be­tween men’s and women’s av­er­age start­ing pay.

A lack of ne­go­ti­at­ing skills could be a part of the rea­son for the wage gap, said Hill of the AAUW re­port. Or it could go back to the per­son do­ing the lis­ten­ing. “ Two work­ers who use the same kind of lan­guage could be per­ceived dif­fer­ently.” In other words, a man and a wo­man might ask for the same thing in the same way, but get a dif­fer­ent re­sult.

In many cases, even women who fi­nally ask for a raise may not get it be­cause de­ci­sion- mak­ers aren’t used to ac­cept­ing ne­go­ti­at­ing be­hav­ior from women, Bab­cock said.

“ Our so­ci­ety has a real dou­ble stan­dard about what’s ac­cept­able for women to do and men to do,” she said. “ We’re per­fectly fine ac­cept­ing ne­go­ti­at­ing be­hav­ior from men, but we re­act neg­a­tively when a wo­man does that. She knows she’ll get a neg­a­tive re­sponse or that we’ll judge her, so she holds back.”

At least two re­cent polls show that is likely hap­pen­ing. In an­other of Bab­cock’s stud­ies, she found 20 per­cent of women polled said they never ne­go­ti­ate at all. And in a re­cent study con­ducted by PINK mag­a­zine, a ca­reer pub­li­ca­tion for women, nearly half of 2,400 women sur­veyed didn’t ask for a raise or pro­mo­tion in the pre­vi­ous 12 months.

How­ever, of those who did ask, 72 per­cent re­ceived one.

Know­ing that, per­haps a few more women can gain some ground. And they just might set off enough change that to­day’s young girls won’t need to worry about a gap at all.

BY ROB SHEPPERSON FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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