Three Reasons Women are Underpaid

Ask to Get 14/12/2009 6 Comments

I was listening to a discussion on NPR (KPBS) about how women earn approximately 20% less than men for similar work. Two main causes came to light. Women don’t earn what men earn because they ask for a lower salary – not the salary they would like, and when they do ask for comparable pay, they negotiate less aggressively and settle for less. Add this to a history of discriminatory pay practices and it’s no wonder women have not caught up to men in equal pay for equal work.

It may be tricky to discover what others in similar positions are earning when specific numbers are seldom discussed or kept private, and there is variation across state lines. However, I believe the root issue is women undervalue themselves by asking for less at the onset.

This mistake is compounded when told “no,” they cannot be paid a certain amount. Many women end negotiations and accept the position at lower pay. Not bargaining is an extension of the “girls are supposed to be nice” attitude inculcated during childhood. Men are less likely to behave this way. They negotiate longer and harder, and get more as a result.

Hiring managers bring in candidates by offering competitive salaries, but they are happy to extend less to those who do not fight for all they could be getting. As long as women ask for less and cave in early during salary negotiations, the pay disparity between the sexes will remain. Women – exerting your power pays off. You don’t ask, you don’t get!

Author/speaker Janet F. Williams is a high-end sales professional, sales trainer and coach for personal and professional development. She speaks on topics contained in her award-winning book “You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get” to businesses, networking groups, non-profits, book clubs and more. For more information or to buy the book, please visit: and

6 Responses to “Three Reasons Women are Underpaid”

  1. December 14th, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

    Peter Quinn

  2. Janet Elk
    December 28th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Make sure to do your homework and research what others (not just men) are making for the same position, experience and education, so you know going in what you are worth.

  3. Kimberly B. from San Marcos, California
    December 29th, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Working in Human Resources, I have seen the younger generation (30’s and under) of women easily negotiate and ask for what they deserve, and they often get it. Particularly in what were formerly “male-dominated” fields, such as engineering. We all need to get onboard with this new way of thinking. If you are nearing a job offer, they have already decided on you as a top prospect, negotiating your salary is very much expected in the corporate world.

    Us Baby boomers can learn from this…

  4. December 15th, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Conservatives tend to argue that because women anticipate taking time off to raise children they have fewer incentives to work hard in school and they choose careers where on-the-job training and long hours are less important. Obviously some mixture of those factors is at work but academics have long been frustrated when they try to estimate which force is greater women s choices or men s discrimination. But they have come up with the first systematic analysis of the experiences of transgender people in the labor force.

  5. Maiga Cantwell
    August 31st, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for the great article. I am heading to school in a few days and am going to be back to use some of it for my research if that is ok?

  6. Janet F. Williams
    August 31st, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Yes. Remember, anytime you quote a source, it is proper to give credit.

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