AnnaMarie Houlis

Women are told time and time again to "lean in" and ask for what they want (and deserve) more often — like pay raises. But asking for a raise isn't an easy feat, particularly for women who run the risk of coming across too "aggressive." A wealth of research suggests that society expects women to behave conciliatory, and that there are social penalties for breaking such gender molds. Company cultures tend to reward and promote men over women for the same "aggressive" behaviors, which keeps many women from negotiating effectively or at all.

Wage negotiation is, in and of itself, an inherently "aggressive" move, and our conceptions of female power and what women are and aren't "allowed" to do directly impacts our ability to ask for the money we deserve. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University explained to NPR back in 2011 that there's a "snowball effect:" Women are less likely to ask for raises because of perceptions of "aggression," and, instead, typically wait to be offered raises. Because of that, women are slower to grow professionally and are slower to achieve higher pay. Plus, researchers from the Kennedy School also found that there is sometimes a "social cost" for asking for a pay rise; some women found that being perceived as "aggressive" made people less likely to socialize with them, network or collaborate, which could also affect their future prospects of a pay raise.

But then in 2016, a study came out that said women do, in fact, ask for raises as often as men — but they're 25 percent less likely to get them. This study suggested that we shouldn't place the blame on women for not asking, but rather place the blame on companies for not rewarding women. But while the study found that men and women both asked for raises when it was made clear that pay was negotiable, 48 percent of the men surveyed thought their salary was negotiable, while only 32 percent of women did. So if women weren't explicitly told that they could indeed ask for more money, they tended to assume that a raise wasn't in the cards. That study supports a finding from 2012, in which researchers found that, while women are often eager to negotiate for more pay, they're much less likely to do so if there isn't "an explicit statement in the job description that payment is negotiable." 

Well, now even more research says that women do indeed ask for pay raises, and many of them are planning to do just that — or leave their jobs to earn more money elsewhere. According to a poll by global job site Indeed, over 67 percent of women respondents are planning to ask for a pay rise this appraisal cycle as they are not happy with their current level of remuneration. That's in comparison to just 64 percent of men.

The survey was conducted by UK-based consultancy Censuswide on behalf of Indeed among 2,005 employees from companies across sectors including IT, telecom, education, manufacturing and utilities, finance and health care. A majority of the participants were in the age group of 25 to 44 years old and in full-time jobs. 

About 93 percent of the respondents will possibly or definitely ask for a pay raise in the coming appraisal cycle for 2018, with women more likely to ask for a raise than men, the site reported, partially because more women than men are dissatisfied with their current pay. More than half of the respondents said they had asked for a pay raise in the previous year, too, while a third said they had done so more than once during the same period of time, only to be refused due to a lack of budgets or, for close to a third, quality of work. 

But women won't just be asking for more money this year. They're also going to be considering career moves that may include changing jobs in order to secure more money. About 80 percent of the respondents 25 to 34 years old agreed that they would consider changing their jobs in order to secure a raise.

Some states are making moves to ensure that women are paid fairly for their work, but there's still a lot of catching up to do. Washington, for example, recently passed new legislation that creates additional pay equity requirements for Washington employers. Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 21, the law will update and expand the state’s Equal Pay Act (EPA) for the first time since it was enacted in 1943. Vermont also just introduced and passed legislation that bans employers from asking applicants what they currently earn, or request salary and benefits history, as part of an employment application. And Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey just recently signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, too.

As more companies change their policies to meet the changing state laws — or just to blaze trails — it's to be expected that evermore women will be speaking up regardless of whether or not they're explicitly told it's OK to ask.


AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.