A New Study From Berkeley Debunks The ‘Women Don’t Ask’ Stereotype by: Meghan Marrin on September 13, 2023 | 313 Views September 13, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit The gender pay gap is shrinking overall, but increases for women and minority MBAs as they progress through their careers, a new report finds Women are advocating for themselves more and more, pushing to close the gender wage gap. But while there’s been great progress since 2016, there’s much more work to be done, according to a new study from professors at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business and Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. “The gender pay gap has narrowed since 2016 and 2018, but has not budged during the pandemic despite calls for pay equity and transparency,” says Forté Foundation CEO Elissa Sangster. The problem, she notes, affects current and future generations of women in business, which makes up an increasing number of MBAs. Better representation is part of the solution: Back in 2002, the top B-schools averaged fewer than 28% women in their cohorts. Now, with the help of Forté and other groups, most of the top B-schools have 40% or more women in their MBA programs. NEW STUDY SHOWS WOMEN HAVE BEEN NEGOTIATING UC-Berkeley Haas’ Laura Kray and Margaret Lee and Vanderbilt’s Jessica Kennedy conducted a study this year in which they interviewed 1,435 MBAs and 1,939 alumni from top U.S. business schools. They found that women have actually been negotiating their salaries more than men — but that their negotiations haven’t been as effective. Negotiating, the researchers found, has definitely helped some. But not enough to close the gap. “In the 90s, women were less likely to negotiate their salaries than men,” Wharton Professor Adam Grant commented on the study via X (formerly Twitter). “Today, they’re more likely to ask … but still get fewer raises. The solution is not to encourage women to advocate for themselves. It’s to change the stereotypes and systems that are biased against them.” ENDING THE NOTION THAT ‘WOMEN DON’T ASK’ “While men in the past may have been more likely than women to negotiate, the gender difference has since reversed,” says Kray, the Ned and Carol Spieker chair in leadership, chair of the Management of Organizations Group, and faculty director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at Berkeley Haas. “Continuing to put the blame on women for not negotiating away the gender pay gap does double damage, perpetuating gender stereotypes and weakening efforts to fight them.” Conducting their new study, Kray and her colleagues learned that participants who read a passage from a book aimed at getting women to negotiate were more likely to endorse gender stereotypes than those who read from a gender-neutral negotiations book. “Negotiating for pay or promotions is clearly beneficial, and given that negotiation rates are pretty low, there is a lot of room for everyone to do more negotiating,” Kray tells Poets&Quants. “But it’s time to end the notion that the pay gap occurs because women don’t ask.” MBA PAY GAP: WOMEN EARN 88% OF MEN — BUT THE NUMBER GOES DOWN OVER TIME In 1979, women earned 62% of what men were earning. Most of the growth in women’s earnings relative to men’s occurred in the 1980s and 90s when the percentage gradually climbed, and in 2016, women’s earnings ranged anywhere from 74-83% of men’s among workers age 35 and older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, women are earning only 88% of what men earn after finishing their MBA. However, shockingly, past research from Kray and others shows that a decade into their careers, women earn only 63% of what men make. A Forté Foundation study earlier this year showed that pay gaps by gender and race emerge and widen over time. Kray says the pay gap among MBA graduates “is especially notable considering the nearly identical skills and qualifications held by men and women at the time the degree is conferred.” Some progress has been made: The gap for middle- and lower-wage women has actually closed a bit. But for those with higher salaries, the gap has increased, and the problem persists. Factor in race, and the numbers are even further apart: According to Forté, minority women earned 42% less ($124,522) than men on average. WHAT KEEPS THE GAP FROM CLOSING The Forte Foundation report outlined some of the barriers that women have to closing the pay gap, including a lack of leadership positions, confidence, and female role models: Women MBAs are less likely to be promoted, averaging 1.8 promotions post MBA compared to men who average 2.2 promotions. Minority women have averaged 1.5 promotions. More women (41%) than men (34%) are looking at the mid-management levels of Manager through Director. More men (35%) than women (30%) aspire to partner, C-level executive, president/CEO, and owner. Women have on average 1.1 fewer direct reports than men do. Women were much more likely to cite a “lack of female leaders/role models” (women 37%, men 6%) and a “lack of confidence” (women 39%, men 28%). More women also pointed to leadership barriers such as “a lack of formal or informal sponsorship in the organization” (women 34%, men 27%) and their own “hesitancy to share their ambition with leaders” (women 17%, men 11%). Despite all of the barriers, women MBAs have made significant gains in both enrollment and pay in the last 10 years. Last November, Forté reported that 22 of its member schools with full-time MBA programs had cohorts of at least 40% women — Forté’s highest number ever. DON’T MISS NEW FORTÉ STUDY: MBA BOOSTS WAGES FOR WOMEN & MINORITIES, BUT GENDER PAY GAP PERSISTS and REPORT: POSITIVE SIGNS, BUT BIG HURDLES REMAIN FOR WOMEN & MINORITY MBAS Comments or questions about this article? Email us.