ALEX COHEN, host:
Good news for women and their wages. A demographer at Queens College found that those of us who work full-time and live in big cities - like New York, Dallas, L.A. - now earn more than men. But here's the catch. That's only in big cities. Overall, women working full-time make just 77 percent as much as men do.
Linda Babcock offers one possible reason why women don't ask for more money. Babcock is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. According to her research, men are four times more likely than women to try and negotiate their salaries.
Professor LINDA BABCOCK (Carnegie Mellon University): You know, as girls we are really raised to accept what's offered to us and not ask for more, to not rock the boat. The second factor, and this is the topic of some of my new research, is that women are penalized more than men for negotiating. People are less likely to like them; if they negotiate in a job interview, they're less likely to hire them, that there are real social sanctions that occur when women initiate negotiations.
COHEN: And tell us a little bit about this new research. How did you go about conducting your study?
Prof. BABCOCK: Okay. What we did is we videoed actors from Carnegie Mellon. They were in an interview and they would either accept the offer as it was given or they would negotiate for more. And there were identical scripts across the men and the women, and then we recorded those scripts and showed them to individuals, and they would rate. If you were in a hiring situation, how likely would you be to hire this person? How much do you like them? We asked them about all kinds of personal characteristics of the person they saw in the video.
COHEN: We took a look at some of the videos that you used in this experiment. Let's take a listen. Let's listen first - this is a guy asking for some more money.
(Soundbite of video)
Unidentified Man: I understand that there's a range in terms of how much junior managers are paid in the first place. I think I should be paid at the top of that range. This is very important to me. I feel I deserve it.
COHEN: And now here is a woman making the same request.
Unidentified Woman: I understand that there's a range in terms of how junior managers are paid. I think I should get on the top of that range. This is very important to me. I believe I deserve it.
COHEN: In the video this woman had great posture. She was a very pleasant looking woman. The guy just kind of seemed a bit hunched over and he just sounded so much less confident to me. Are you telling me that despite these differences in performance, people are still more likely to give the raise to the guy?
Ms. BABCOCK: That's right. They're more likely to hire him. And they like him, whether he asks or he whether he doesn't ask, because remember, we had two versions of each tape, one in which the man did not ask, one in which he did ask. But when the woman initiated a negotiation for more money, people were much less likely to hire her. They did not like her. They thought she was too aggressive. Now, this is men and women rating this woman, so it wasn't just men, it's women also who were saying I don't like this woman who asks for more money.
COHEN: I'm curious what the financial implications are for this - for women?
Ms. BABCOCK: Well, the financial implications are huge. Take two college graduates graduating today. If they're both offered the same salary, one negotiates and gets more, and the other doesn't. Basically, the person that doesn't negotiate loses about a half a million dollars over the course of their career in lost earnings because of that one time that they didn't negotiate. If you take someone graduating from, say, an MBA program, the figures are even greater. It's about one-and-a-half-million dollars in lost earnings over the course of your career.
COHEN: Linda, in cases where women do have the confidence or courage to ask for more money, how does that usually turn out for them? Do they get the extra cash?
Ms. BABCOCK: The research that I have is on students that were negotiating their job offers after graduating from Carnegie Mellon, and we found that women were just as effective in negotiating higher offer upon graduation as men were. So we found that they did get what they wanted as much as men. But our other studies do suggest that there may be some social consequences in terms of not being liked as much as a result. Some of our new research is looking at - is there a way that a woman can still ask for the same thing and yet perhaps soften her style a little bit so that she is not negatively perceived?
COHEN: Linda, I am so tempted to say, you know, women, we have enough stuff to deal with; why should we be having to change how we come into negotiating situations? Shouldn't there be some kind of protocol or human resources training that trains managers to say, look, it's not okay to treat women differently when they come in and ask for more?
Ms. BABCOCK: I completely agree. It's really unfair. We're making women work really hard to present themselves in just the right style so that there's not this backlash and it really holds women back from being true equal partners in our society. I may be not as optimistic as you are, Alex, though because I do think that some of these reactions that we have to women are not conscious, so I think that these biases are a little bit harder to correct.
COHEN: Linda Babcock is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University. Her study appears in "Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes." Thank you so much.
Ms. BABCOCK: Thanks. It was a pleasure.
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