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They Got It Right!

Ok we at FairerScience have been known to be a little snippy about reporters (and researchers) who stick with the superficial and stereotypic. This time everyone got it right. Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling by Washington Post staff writer Shankar Vedantam is a really nice write up of a darn good piece of research by Linda C. Babcock , Hannah Riley Bowles and Lei Lai .

There has been lots and lots of research finding men get paid more than women (duh) and that a significant amount of the difference is due to men being more willing to ask for more money. You know, the old "nothing ventured; nothing gained" thing. And of course the response has been to help women to become more assertive, to be more willing to ask for more. It is the "fix the woman" thing that we have all had done to us and that, let's face it, we have been known to do to ourselves and to others.

These researchers, one of whom did much of the earlier research, have gone on beyond "conventional wisdom" to explore what might behind women's reasons for being less apt to ask for raises. See what they found:

"Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, this study found that women's reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more -- the perception was that women who asked for more were "less nice"."

Their conclusion:

"It is not that women always act one way and men act another way; it tends to be moderated by situational factors," Bowles said. "The point of this paper is: Yes, there is an economic rationale to negotiate, but you have to weigh that against social risks of negotiating. What we show is those risks are higher for women than for men."

Good work, good reporting and interesting results. Ah it is a good day for FairerScience.

PS Thanks to FairerScience friend David Mortman for bringing the article to our attention.