MONEY GAP: Why women don't ask
They believe they can't have it all, writes Andrea Nagel
FACT: In countries across the world there is still a persistent gender gap in salaries, and a disparity in how people rise to the top of organisations.
The traditional explanation for this, according to Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, who has written a book entitled Women Don't Ask, is that men are simply more aggressive than women, perhaps because of a combination of genetics and upbringing.
But more recent experiments conducted by Babcock and colleague Hannah Riley Bowles reveal a different conclusion.
Their studies found men and women received very different responses when they initiated negotiations.
''What we found is that men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who had not," Bowles said in an interview in the Washington Post.
''They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether or not a guy had chosen to negotiate."
This disparity is, to some degree, the result of deeply ingrained social roles.
''In most societies the biological difference between men and women is used as a justification for forcing them into different social roles which limit and shape their attitudes and behaviour," says registered counsellor Jennie Ashwal.
''A male must appear to be masculine and a woman must be seen as feminine. These definitions are loaded with expectations, including the assumption women are naturally passive, while men are naturally active."
''This psychological mechanism can operate only as long as the behaviour of men and women does not transgress the generally accepted limits," says Ashwal.
''The assumed roles of women in society unconsciously filter into the workplace," says clinical psychologist Barry Greenwood.
''Women don't tend to think of themselves as breadwinners. They are used to thinking of their salaries as the second income. This is true of single women too, who tend to compare themselves with their mothers, as in 'I'm earning a little more than my mom did'."
Greenwood adds that women are used to doing work that is unpaid, like looking after the home. So any salary is subconsciously seen as a bonus.
''Women don't think of themselves as contributing to their own bank accounts," continues Greenwood.
''They tend to think in terms of feeding the kids or buying the family a holiday. Salaries for women are not bound up with egos.
''Generally women have better emotional quotients than men. This means when they are negotiating salaries, they do so scaled on a par with a lot of other things that bring fulfilment to their lives and that add to their self-confidence, such as being good homemakers."
Greenwood admits that many young women say: '''I'm going to marry the top of the workforce", instead of 'I'm going to get to the top'."
This is a reinforcement of gender stereotypes.
''Ambitious women are seen as ballbreakers or 'hectic chicks'," he says.
''Ambitious men are seen as focussed, dedicated or relentless."
''This is deeply psychologically ingrained. Powerful women are thought of as being dangerous. They're subconsciously viewed as castrating or suffocating."
And money is power.
It goes back to the parent-child relationship, notes Greenwood.
''Daughters don't want to alienate or suffocate their fathers, so they learn at an early age not to go head-to-head with men."
Added to this is the complexity of roles women play in life - they are enriched in many other ways, says Greenwood.
''Women tend to think they can't have it all. That's not a thought that crosses a man's mind.
''Women assume they have to choose between being good parents or good earners. They don't negotiate around the spaces of having it all."
Life coach Judy Klipin says the workspace is very psychologically loaded.
''Many working mothers feel ambivalent about working because they would be rather be at home with their children.
"This leads to a sense of guilt and subconscious self-punishment along the lines of 'I shouldn't be rewarded for something I'm not completely committed to'."
''Women also tend to have a stronger fear of rejection," says Klipin.
''And they have what is known as the Imposter Syndrome - the idea they're not good enough and that their fraud will be discovered, so they prefer to stay under the radar."
Most of these issues are due to social conditioning, says Ashwal.
Greenwood advises that women should consider the many different models available to counteract their reluctance to negotiate salaries.
''We need to publicise more female role models who show that women can indeed have it all," he says.