RMU poll: Workers believe some companies hide gender pay gap

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In a new poll about gender pay disparities, a majority of respondents said employers hide salary figures so workers won’t be aware of glaring gaps between men’s and women’s wages.

The survey, conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute, also found that most respondents believe women don’t receive equal pay for equal work and that women are less inclined than men to negotiate for initial salaries and raises.

“Often as employees, we put our careers and our lives in the hands of our employer and expect them to take care of us … with opportunities for growth and along with that, equal pay. And that doesn't happen,” said Daria Crawley, associate professor of management at RMU.

Ms. Crawley, who teaches international business and organizational behavior to undergraduates and MBA students, asked the polling institute to include questions about gender pay in its most recent survey as part of research she is conducting on women in the workplace. The data also will be used to develop a new mentoring program for female students that the school plans to launch this fall.

Besides gender workplace issues, the poll, conducted online in February, sampled 1,006 people nationwide on Pennsylvania’s upcoming gubernatorial election, the impact of the Affordable Care Act on congressional elections, and other topics.

Specifically, 68.4 percent of respondents agreed with a statement that said most employers “hide salaries to avoid comparisons of equal pay for equal jobs among men and women.” More women than men concurred with that theory: 73.6 percent of females said employers hide salary data compared with 63.9 percent of men.

Men were also more likely to say women receive equal pay for equal work. While 41.8 percent of men agreed women are paid fairly, only 18 percent of women agreed. Overall, only 30 percent of those surveyed said women earn equal wages as men.

More than half, 57.2 percent, said women are less likely to negotiate their salaries and raises than men, and 61.5 percent said women are “more polite” and view negotiation differently than men do.

“Women see negotiation as involving more conflict than do men and so that is another reason why women negotiate less,” said Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, co-founder of the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women at CMU, and co-author of two books on negotiation: “Women Don’t Ask” and “Ask for It.”

“It’s also important to remember that women receive more negative feedback from the person they are negotiating with than men and this further discourages women from negotiating,” Ms. Babcock said.

Among the reasons many women don’t push for higher earnings, Ms. Crawley said, is that they wait for “cues” from employers such as whether a job posting describes salary as flexible or negotiable. “If those words are not added, many people feel there’s not an opportunity to negotiate,” she said.

“It’s important for women to understand that even if the salary is not stated as flexible, there is an opportunity to negotiate. Even in this tight job market, you have to be prepared and comfortable with negotiating. You might have to role play with your friends before you actually do it.”

When her students prepare for job interviews with a resume, portfolio and new business suit, Ms. Crawley advises them to also have timely data on salaries for the positions they seek. "Know your value in a tangible number so you know how much you should be paid.”

A critical issue addressed in the RMU poll, Ms. Crawley said, is whether employers are ultimately responsible for paying equal salaries to men and women.

Almost 90 percent of poll respondents “agreed strongly” or “somewhat agreed” that it is up to employers to treat men and women fairly.

That’s a false assumption, Ms. Crawley said.

“Women and men need to take our careers in our own hands. Women and men think the organization is going to take care of them. But clearly the organization is not.”

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.

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