When examining the gender pay gap in the U.S. — women make 79 cents for every dollar that men make, according to the Census Bureau—there's a persistent idea that women may be at least partially responsible because they don't demand the same kinds of raises that men do. Do a Google search for "women don't ask for raises," and you'll find multiple articles, essays and books on the subject of how women just aren't comfortable asking for more money.
Hold that thought, though, because a new study says that women ask for raises all the time. The problem is they just don't get them.
The study, which was conducted by the University of Warwick in Britain, the University of Wisconsin in the United States, and the Cass Business School, examined a 2013-2014 Australian workplace relations survey for its findings. (According to the BBC, Australia is the only country that records when employees ask for pay raises and the circumstances surrounding them.)
In all, the study looked at the results from 4,600 men and women who responded to the survey to see who asked for a raise and whether they got it.
If you look at the raw numbers of the survey, they suggest women are asking for raises less often than men, with 75 percent of men saying they have received a pay raise compared to 66 percent of women. But when the authors of the study used a formula to equalize the amount of hours worked for full-time employees only, the study found men and women ask for raises at the exact same rate. The problem is that men were 25 percent more likely to actually get the raise.
"Having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women," Professor Andrew Oswald, one of the survey authors, told the BBC. "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 researchers behind the new study wrote they specifically set out to challenge the idea that "women don't ask," pointing out the evidence that women shy away from negotiation is largely based on laboratory studies and not direct surveys of workers. They concluded (emphasis added):
[T]his paper documents evidence, of a direct and simple kind, that women do ask but do not get. Such a finding is potentially consistent with the existence of discrimination in the labor market.
While this is useful information to have, it unfortunately doesn't change the reality of wage discrimination in the workplace. Under the old assumption, women are underpaid because they don't ask for raises. The new study says women do ask for raises, they just don't get them. Either way, women workers are still underpaid.