By Erin Reimel. Photos: Stocksy.
The gender pay gap is seriously the worst, no matter which stats you subscribe to: Estimates in salary difference between men and women in comparable jobs range from 18 percent to 2 percent (while the latter might seem small, it eventually translates into a whopping $59,000 in lost income over the course of a lifetime). And it gets even worse for women of color. While it's easy to get down about these depressing numbers, women's own pessimism about the pay gap might actually play a part in perpetuating it, according to a recent study. Researchers at the University of Bath found that when women are pessimistic about their earning potential, the gap is less likely to close.
According to a press release about the study, which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, the British university's research team found that because women often underestimate their possible earnings, they're less likely to push for a raise or a promotion if they're unsatisfied with with their position or their wages. Instead, they accept what they're offered. Men, on the other hand, tend to overestimate their abilities, and so they push for better pay and high positions, or they look for a new job altogether.
"If low female expectations in terms of pay is fueled by a pessimistic outlook, then even without discrimination and progression-related issues, women will continue to underestimate themselves and continue to inadvertently accept pay inequality," Dr. Chris Dawson, senior lecturer in Business Economics at the University of Bath's School of Management, said. "It has serious implications for policy that is trying to address the gender pay gap and suggests more needs to be done to actively advance women at work without relying on them to self-select for promotion and senior opportunities."
Admittedly, when some of us haven't seen the pay gap budge our entire working lives, it's not hard to feel a bit defeatist about things. Dawson emphasizes that the task to fix this issue isn't on women—he says it's on policymakers to adequately address these issues so employees don't have to deal with this in the first place. The dean of the University of Bath's school of management, Veronica Hope Hailey, adds that the study also points out the need for managers to put practices into place that "enable and encourage women to progress and recognize their value." She wants policymakers and employers to encourage women to reach higher and and to foster their talents. (It's worth noting that the pay gap in the U.K. is down to 5 percent among Millennial workers, though it widens to 9 percent after age 30 and widens even more for baby boomers.)
That assumes, of course, that one's manager and local congressperson are on board with closing the pay gap and helping women rise in the ranks—because, P.S., the pay gap gets worse the higher women climb on the corporate ladder. The study's big takeaway puts the onus on the same people who have historically perpetuated the pay gap to be the change agents.
In a time when highly visible female celebrities are calling their industries out for paying their male counterparts more, a larger conversation about the pay gap is opening up across the board. In the meantime, women can get the ball rolling. What if we refused to see the pay gap as a given? If we refused to take the first salary offer that came our way, or pushed for that raise we know we deserve? Collectively, what if we all made a little more noise about what we bring to the table?
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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