Pessimism about their earningpotential could be preventing women from pushing for higher wagesor a promotion, according to a new study.
In turn, this could be helping tosustain the gender pay gap.
The study found that women tend tounderestimate their earning prospects, while men often do theopposite, and researchers say it could help to explain why womenare more often satisfied at work than men despite unequalpay.
In the controversial new study fromthe University of Bath, researchers concluded that pessimism amongwomen could cause them to have little inclination to seek higherwages or even a better paid position.
Men, on the other hand, were found toconsistently overestimate their own abilities.
The researchers analyzed the Britishhousehold Panel Survey, a major longitudinal study, to trackindividuals’ expectations of salaries ranging from unemployment topaid employment.
While women tended to have lowerexpectations, men were more likely to feel dissatisfied when thereality didn’t match their outlooks, and consequently pursue betterpay or change jobs.
‘If low female expectations in termsof pay is fuelled by a pessimistic outlook, then even withoutdiscrimination and progression-related issues, women will continueto underestimate themselves and continue to inadvertently acceptpay inequality,’ said Dr Chris Dawson, Senior Lecturer in BusinessEconomics.
‘It has serious implications forpolicy that is trying to address the gender pay gap and suggestsmore needs to be done to actively advance women at work, withoutrelying on them to self-select for promotion and senioropportunities.
‘The takeaway message of thisresearch is not about putting the responsibility on women, butrecognising that without policy measures to address this, we runthe risk of never closing the gender pay gap.’
The researchers say the findings shedlight on the complex nature of the pay gap.
It could also help to address the‘paradox of the contented female worker,’ which describes thephenomenon in which women are more satisfied than their malecounterparts despite being paid less.
‘Whilst the role of unconscious biasin gender relations in the workplace has been well documented, thisnew research demonstrates the role of unconscious pessimism andpassivity on the part of women,’ said Professor Veronica HopeHailey, Dean of the University’s School ofManagement.
‘It shows the importance of peoplemanagement practices that enable and encourage women to progressand recognize their value.
‘The onus is on policy makers andemployers to foster female talent so that initiatives to close thegender pay gap can succeed.’