Lovewell’s logic: Are pay increases discriminatory?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck

When did you last ask for a pay increase? Is this something you do regularly, or like so many of us, would you only consider doing so when changing roles? Are you even comfortable doing so at all? And if you have requested a pay rise, how successful were you?

If the answer to the final question is ‘not very’, it may not be a surprise to hear that, like so many other areas in the workplace today, this may be down to gender.

Research published by Cass Business School, the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin earlier this week found that while women ask for pay rises just as often as men, male workers are 25% more likely to receive an increase when they ask.

The survey of 4,600 Australian employees across 800 organisations also analysed the claim that female employees are less likely to request a pay increase due to concerns about upsetting their boss.

The belief that women are more likely to hold back from requesting a rise because they are more concerned than men about the quality of their relationships in the workplace is often cited as a reason why female employees may receive fewer salary increases than male colleagues. However, this research found no evidence among respondents to support this claim.

So, if women are asking for salary increases just as often as men, why is there such a gender disparity in the number of requests that are granted?

While the authors of the report concluded that this is evidence of discrimination in the workplace, is it really that straightforward?

Instead, could factors such as the manner in which the request was made, the conviction in the individual’s belief that they truly deserved the raise and their supporting justification as to why they deserved a higher salary also play a part – regardless of the employee’s gender?

Of course, no employer will knowingly give unwarranted salary increases. But should organisations do more to ensure these are more evenly distributed across all employees rather than just those who proactively come forward with the most convincing case?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
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