May 15, 2024 - Business

Women MBAs are asking for higher pay, but still earning less

Illustration of person pushing as a vice is closing in

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The idea that women are less likely to ask for higher pay has long been one explanation for the gender pay gap — the difference in earnings between men and women —  but new research finds women MBAs are now more likely to negotiate than their male counterparts.

Why it matters: A clear understanding of the reasons women earn less than men (around 16% less according to government data) is necessary to close that gap.

Zoom in: The research, published earlier this year in the Academy of Management, focuses on business school alumni, surveying recent graduates and those who've been out of school for five years.

What they found: 54% of graduating women MBAs at a top business school negotiated their post-graduation job offer compared to 44% of men.

  • Surveying those who earned their degrees between 2015 and 2019, the researchers — from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and Vanderbilt University — found women asked for raises and promotions at a higher rate than men.
  • Women also reported getting turned down at a higher rate.
  • Overall, women earned 22% less than men.

The big picture: Meanwhile, prominent research from Nobel winner Claudia Goldin has found that a big driver of the gender gap for MBAs has to do with women's propensity to work fewer hours and take more career breaks — likely to manage child care responsibilities.

  • In other words, narrowing the gap is not necessarily about asking for more — there are structural and cultural issues at play that lead women to make different kinds of career choices.

The bottom line: "If women could rectify the pay gap by negotiating, they would!" one of the paper's co-authors, Vanderbilt management professor Jessica Kennedy said in an email.

  • "They've been doing their part to 'lean in,' act assertively, and know their value. It's going to take changes in organizational or public policy to ensure equitable pay."

Go deeper