Study Shows Gender, Not Race, Plays Bigger Role in Raise Negotiations

For at least four decades, business leadership has been focused on increasing diversity within the workplace. Organizations are far more likely to have people of various races working and in positions of power than they did in the 1960s. Far more women work and are in positions of power than there were when the second wave of feminism began in the 1970s.

Because racial/ethnic groups and women both began progressing significantly in business life around four decades ago, the challenges these groups face in making less than white men on the whole are sometimes discussed together. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review points out, however, that gender plays a far larger role in negotiations for raises than race or ethnic group.

White men are more likely to negotiate for a raise, more comfortable asking for a raise, and generally receive larger raises than women.

Women are far less likely across the board to ask for raises than black, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian men. The data show that 75% of white men have asked for raises at some point in their career, while only 50% of white women have. Sixty-five percent of black men have asked for raises at some point versus 47% of black women. Fifty-nine percent of Hispanic/Latino men have asked for raises while 50% of Hispanic/Latino women have. Fifty-two percent of Asian men have asked for raises, but only 41% of Asian women have (the lowest of any group).

Why The Disparity?
Why do women ask for raises less than men? After all, negotiating for a raise increases the chances of receiving one. Negotiation is an essential part of leadership skills.

Many observers attribute it to women’s relative lack of confidence. The confidence differential is one of the reasons for the pay gap between genders, which has lessened over the decades but still remains robust. On average, women earn $0.79 to every $1.00 a man earns.

At a recent Wharton Women in Business conference at the University of Pennsylvania, women business leaders focused on the lack of confidence women perceive in themselves.

Practice in negotiation may make women more likely to engage in it.

One commentator noted that half the women in her firm never negotiated for anything, and the other half were either apologetic about doing it or overly aggressive – perhaps because they were unaccustomed to the collaborative negotiations favored in contemporary business.

The men? They negotiated on a fairly steady basis, not only about raises, but about everything.

The solution? Many attendees advised women to negotiate often. The action is normalized in men, who are rewarded for negotiation, expected to negotiate, and do it often. It is less normalized for women. Negotiating on a steady basis, even for deals in shopping, builds the skills and the confidence to do it.

Others advised setting specific negotiation goals and yet depersonalizing the result. A yes or no in negotiating for a 25% raise may be about the economic of industry or the outlook for the sector rather than individual performance or fit. A no, then isn’t a reason to quit negotiating; it’s a reason to consider it a step toward making the activity of asking a part of everyday business life.