November 30, 2016

It doesn’t pay to be nice women

Women who are “dominant” and “disagreeable” in the workplace earn higher salaries than their more agreeable colleagues, according to a recent study.

The authors of the paper, published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, found that personality attributes such as competitiveness, confidence, and aggressiveness attracted higher pay; and that the discrepancy was higher for women than men.

The study, based on a survey of 375 employees at a multinational firm in the Netherlands, found that “dominant” women on average earned €4,240 a month, compared to €2,920 for “non-dominant” women; a gap of over 30%.

For men, there was a smaller gap of around 10%. However, men were found to earn more than women overall, regardless of personality type.

The report also found that “non-dominant” women were more likely to “rationalize” their lower pay, and were less likely to ask for more.

Co-author Sharon Toker of Tel Aviv University said: “We have witnessed dramatic changes in the definition of traditionally male and female qualities over the past several decades. But some people still really cling to the idea that some qualities are exclusively male and exclusively female. Some professional women are still afraid to exhibit a trait that’s incongruent with presumed notions of female character. The result is financial retribution.”

Gender differences in competitiveness are explored in an IZA World of Labor article by Mario Lackner. He argues that attitudes to competition can partly explain the gender pay gap, writing that: “A future challenge is to mitigate the negative consequences of these gaps on the way to achieving gender equality in labor markets. One potential policy measure that would help is to undertake reforms of the educational system to encourage competitive attitudes or even consider gender-segregated education in specific subjects.”

Related articles:
Gender differences in competitiveness by Mario Lackner
Gender differences in risk attitudes by Antonio Filippin
Gender wage discrimination by Boris Hirsch
Explore more IZA World of Labor articles about the gender divide