Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 12:17 UK

Why XX must think like XY to earn more K

Woman with bicep

Do you think about pay like a man would tend to, or a woman? Test yourself by answering the five questions below, then read Marilyn Davidson's article on why women need to think like men if they want more cash.


Q1. Are you happy with your salary?

Q2. Have you ever queried or complained about your pay level with your boss?

Q3. Have you ever asked or applied for a pay rise?

Q4. Have you ever renegotiated the salary offered to you as part of a job offer or promotion?

Q5. Do you feel you "deserve" to earn a better salary?


Please answer all questions before submitting.

Your answers show more of a MALE tendency.

Your answers show more of a FEMALE tendency.

You do not have any gender tendency. If you got here, something went awfully wrong or you are just viewing the source code of this page. Cheater.

While men tend to be assertive with their employers regarding pay, women are more likely to leave their salary settlement unchallenged. Find out more by reading Marilyn Davidson's article below on what women should do now to win this battle of the sexes.


Women managers earn about £13,500 less than the average male manager, according to the most recent research. It's been estimated that at the current rate of change it will be 187 years before women get the upper hand.

Despite a sexual revolution in terms of the number of females in the workplace in Britain, the idea seems to persist that men are the breadwinners and women bring up the children. So men should earn more.

In the UK, the pay gap between full-time working women and their male counterparts has increased from 17% to 17.1%. The gap is even greater for part-time workers.

The Trouble with Working Women is broadcast in the UK on 18 and 19 May at 2100 BST on BBC Two

And the higher up the organisational ladder women climb, the more that gap becomes a chasm.

Women directors earn on average nearly a quarter less than men. At this level there is not usually a set pay package - people are head-hunted and offered a particular salary.

Women at this level are much more likely to accept their original salary offer whereas men will ask for more. They'll ask for another £50,000, knowing that they will probably get £25,000.

When it comes to annual bonuses, women managers tend to get half of what their male counterparts receive - and that's true in almost every country in the world.

In my work with business undergraduates I've found that not only do the men expect to earn more than the women, they also think they deserve to earn even more than that.

£11k expectation gap

Every year I run a diversity and equality course, with up to 160 students. Between a third and a quarter are men.

Roger and Peggy in Mad Men
Don't ask, don't get: Peggy confronts the boss in TV's Mad Men, and wins

Before I start the first lecture I ask them two questions.

  • What do you expect to earn five years after graduation?
  • What do you think you deserve to earn five years after graduation?

I ask them to write down both answers and whether they are male or female. Then I analyse each response.

I've been doing this for about seven years, and every year there are massive differences between the male and female responses. The male students expect to earn significantly more than the women, and when you look at what the students think they deserve to earn, again the differences are massive.

In terms of salary expectations, the male students expect about £52,000 a year and the women about £41,000.

On average the men think they deserve £10,000 more a year than the women - that's 25% more than the women think they're worth - a staggering figure.

If that's what women think they deserve five years into their working career, you can see why after 20 years women are still earning substantially less. I've come across a similar recent American study which had exactly the same results.

Fear of feistiness

I think this illustrates not only the fact that there is a disparity in what we pay men and women, but also that your expectations affect your behaviour and help sustain the status quo.

Marilyn Davidson
Women fear being aggressive and feisty but it's more complex - men equate money with status and power, women see job satisfaction as more an issue

At the end of my course the male and female students say that little experiment had the most impact upon them, and will make them think about their attitudes to pay when they start work.

We tend to find that in interviews or assessments women are not as good at negotiating a higher salary or even bringing it up, or asking for it to be assessed, or even complaining because they suddenly realise that a male has been appointed who they know is earning more than them and doing the same job.

They're also much less likely to ask for the perks that they actually deserve - like the bigger car or the bigger office.

Partly women fear being too aggressive and feisty - which can be viewed as negative in the workplace - but I think it's more complex. It is part of our conditioning that men equate money with status and power but women see job satisfaction as more of an issue.

Book attack
And when they're not being modest, women are caricatured as volatile

Women are more likely than men to think, well, I'm good at my job, so I will be noticed and promoted, and I will eventually get a pay rise. Men, on the other hand, will go to their line manager and say they deserve a pay rise... now.

I think there's still a negative stereotype about female ambition. But I think also, you know, pay is very complex; it's about secrecy, the fact that often people don't know what their colleagues are earning and won't ask.

You still find gender segregation in the work place as well. People seem to think the war is won but in reality the Equal Pay Act is past its sell by date because it really hasn't had the impact that it should have had.

It's not just about attitudes, but also about the fact that a lot of women still work predominantly with other women, but are often supervised or managed by men, even in professions like management.

A high proportion of women work in areas like HR, marketing, and nursing and they often get paid less than their male colleagues, because the men still dominate the senior positions.

Marilyn Davidson is a professor of work psychology at Manchester Business School.

Below is a selection of your comments.

What this demonstrates for me more than anything, aside from the gender issue, is that management in organisations everywhere is simply incapable of recognising the worth of employees, of implementing a fair meritocracy. One wonders how much talent and potential are missed or underexploited as a result. Their loss I guess. It never fails to amaze me that organisations in this day and age allow the gender issue to be more important than the pragmatic goal of maximising their success. I suppose at base all humans are essentially slightly-evolved animals following unconscious unreasoning prejudices.
Lucy Kelvin, Glasgow

I fought as hard as I could for eight months to try to bring my pay up to the level of several male colleagues and to the level of my male predecessor when I was promoted into his post. The pay rise never came. Two male colleagues (both already paid more than me) asked ONCE for a rise and got it. In my case, the problem was not that I acted differently to a man, but that my boss only took the men seriously. I quit, as my only other option was a career-ending tribunal. That's the reality.
Susan Kane, Canterbury

If this is the case, businesses should definitely consider hiring more women as they are statistically cheaper.
David, UK

If you had two candidates for a job, both equally good the only difference being that the woman would do the job for £13k less than the man, then any rational company should go for the "cheaper" candidate. So it begs the question why companies employ men, as by the evidence in this article they expect to be overpaid - perhaps employing men is bad business sense?
Nicola, London

Imagine if you went to a car dealer and were shown two cars. Both were identical, except, the dealer tells you, every now and again, one of the cars would be off the road for nine months. Which car would you chose? You'd either go for the car that is always roadworthy, or demand a discount to buy the other one. And that is why women earn less than men: women give birth, and men do not. A woman's attitude and assertiveness has very little to do with it. It is probably unhelpful to suggest otherwise.
Jody, London

This entire brouhaha is founded upon the (erroneous in my view) presumption that the most important aspect of a job is the level of salary. Sure, over the population, men are paid more than women, but I'd bet, over the population, that a higher percentage of women have good job satisfaction and are "happy in their work" than men. So who's "winning"? Not necessarily the men - it depends by what criteria one is measuring.
Mark Checkley, Birmingham, UK

I think you're right in saying that women rate job satisfaction higher than pay when looking at what they want to do with day to day lives. Obviously we want to pay the bills and buy nice things but when you spend eight hours a day somewhere (away from your children), we have to enjoy what we're doing and be happy in the environment. To me promotion just means longer hours and more stress all with very little thanks. If you have no free time to enjoy the money you're earning what's the point?
Emma, Oxford

Very interesting. It took me years before I realised it was possible to ask for a pay rise. I thought that if I asked I'd get fired. Now I work for myself and can access research into what other people (men and women) doing similar work get paid, I still find it difficult to ask for what I feel I deserve. I was shocked the other day to be told by a client that I was cheap, when I had got the impression that he though me expensive - so how did I get that so wrong? Do women misinterpret unspoken signals about their worth?
Delia, Llandudno, Wales

How can a woman doing exactly the same job as a man, equally effectively, be paid £13 500 less? It's illegal. I suspect you're comparing averages of nominally similar jobs, with absolutely no account of the level and content of the jobs taken into account. This may point to the fact that women aren't occupying as many senior positions as men, but that's a whole other issue. Generally, comparing the salaries of jobs that have even a slight degree of difference is fraught with difficulty, let alone large differences, eg comparing a TV presenter to an MP to a GP. (To take inspiration from a recent spat.) If you're going to look at gender pay and promotion differences seriously, you need to do it a lot more scientifically than has been done to date.
Jon Laughton, Olney, England

I was self-employed for over 20 years, and eventually sold my business to a larger company who took me on as a manager overseeing my part of the company. I discovered that I was the only female manager and was not invited to any manager meetings at head office, my salary was £10,000 a year less that the men and I did not have a company car or mobile phone as they did. When I raised the subject with my immediate boss, he started to ignore me completely, talking to people that I was managing, wouldn't speak to me on the phone etc. I eventually went to see the director, who called me a trouble maker, tried to belittle me by saying no one liked me and then in the following months tried to get rid of me by altering my pay package (which had been agreed when I was bought out). They made my life hell, and I kept a diary of everything that was going on and called Acas. Unfortunately the stress became too much and I got a job elsewhere. As a woman I can definitely say I have been on the bad side of sexual discrimination.
Ann Brown, Newcastle upon Tyne

Ms Davidson takes a very macho view of the workplace: she thinks it's 'all about the dosh'. Just because female ambition is different, why is that "negative"? The Equal Pay Act gave women the right to have the same deal as men, but maybe they looked at the rat-race with its long hours, its devotion to the job above all else and its destruction of the human spirit and said "no thanks". Meanwhile us men slave away with our eyes glued to a computer screen and our noses glued to the boss's backside for 20 years till our wives see what empty, soulless shadows we have become and walk away; taking kids, house, money and all, leaving the man with his salary and his drink problem. You need a big salary to accept that deal. Women are smarter than men. Consciously or unconsciously, they say "no".
Patrick Neylan, Orpington, Kent, UK

£52,000 five years after graduation! What planet are our students on? Not on Planet Science that's for sure. With a PhD and 32 years of experience in a biological research/university environment I am not earning £40,000. University lecturers are on about £35,000. Show me where I have gone wrong.
Garry Rucklidge, Aberdeen

There was a German study recently that found that women asking for a pay rise were regarded a lot more negatively by their bosses then men. It's not just the woman's faults - it is the gender stereotyping by those on the receiving end.

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