A new study dismisses the idea that women are paid less than men because they are not sufficiently pushy in the workplace but instead reveals that whilst both sexes are equally likely to request a pay rise, women are less likely to actually receive one.
The study, by the Cass Business School and the universities of Warwick and Wisconsin, looked at 4,600 workers in Australia and found "no support" for the "reticent female" theory, that women simply avoided asking for more money.
Researchers claim this is the first time that a study has been conducted which has eliminated any impact from part-time workers earning less than their full-time counterparts, by comparing full-time males with full-time females, and part-time males with part-time females.
When like-for-like male and female workers were compared, the study revealed men were 25 per cent more likely to obtain a pay rise when they requested one.
The research also concluded there was no evidence that women were reluctant to ask for a salary increase because they were more wary of upsetting their boss, or deviating from a perceived female stereotype.
When analysing the results, the researchers took into account the size of the employer and the industry, whether the workers were a parent, as well as their qualifications. The study was based on data from the 2013-14 Australian workplace relations survey. Australia is thought to be the only country to systematically record whether employees had asked for a pay rise, and why they had or had not done so.
Andrew Oswald, professor of economics and behavioural science at the University of Warwick, said: "The fact that women don’t ask for pay rises as often as men is a popular theory. It’s a very common thing for women to say and believe, but all of the evidence is anecdotal, so it’s very hard scientifically to do a proper test of this."
"Having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women," Prof Oswald added.
"It could be that Australia is odd. But it’s a modern industrial economy halfway in character between Britain and the US, so I think that’s unlikely."
The study also found differences according to age, with women and men under 40 both asking for and receiving pay rises at the same rate, which the researchers said could mean that negotiating behaviour had started to change.
Charlotte Woolven Brown, an employment law expert with Palmers said: “The Equality Act 2010 is quite clear on giving women and men the right to equal pay. Moreover, it has effectively banned so called ‘gagging clauses’ in employment contracts which some employers had previously used to try to keep pay rates secret. However, despite these provisions in law, the issue of unequal pay between men and women persists.
“Any employee who suspects they are being discriminated against is able to request a ‘relevant pay disclosure’ from their employer. If you are concerned that you are suffering from discrimination in the workplace there is legal redress available. ”
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