Paycheck Politics: Women vs. Men

From running companies to running for president, women are on the way to catching up with men in positions of power. Where they aren't catching up is on their paychecks. On average, women still make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.

Two issues are at fault: women's uneasiness with negotiation and the perceptions of women versus men in terms of likability and clout.

We went undercover with a "GMA" Behavior Lab to find out what goes on behind those closed corporate doors when it comes to women asking for their fair share. We also took a look at how assertive women are perceived in comparison to assertive men.

Two actors -- one male, one female -- played job applicants with identical resumes, going for the same job. Volunteers watched their interviews -- scripted so as to be exactly the same -- during which both ask for more money. The volunteers are asked the following questions: a) Do they think the applicant would be a good worker? and b) Would they hire that person?

The results: The volunteers were 30 percent less likely to hire the woman than the man. The reason: She's too demanding and pushy, even though she said exactly the same things as her male counterpart.

Evaluating the Evaluators

When asked to explain their responses, the evaluators who were more critical of the woman applicant than the man told me that they're people with opinions just like you and me. We're so quick to blame employers for gender bias, but the three people in our experiment weren't given any criteria in which to judge the applicants. Their responses are a product of nature or nurture -- or both.

There's something within each of us that says women shouldn't be so assertive, but it's OK for men to be firm about what they want.

The path toward changing perceptions Women -- and men -- must acknowledge that we are all guilty of such biases, whether intentional or not, and must decide that the buck "starts" with each of us. If we catch ourselves thinking, "Oh, isn't she demanding and pushy," or "Isn't she quite full of herself," we must call ourselves on it and commit to thinking again. Hold yourself accountable.

The difficult double-edged sword for women at work Too often when a woman gets ahead, we think, "Who'd she sleep with?" Yet we don't assume the same about men. When a man is promoted we think, "He's smart, he earned it." Similarly, when a woman is firm in her demands, she's the B word. When a man is firm in his same exact demands, we say he's just doing his job.

When you catch yourself thinking or saying things that penalize women for speaking up and claiming credit for their successes -- which we've all been guilty of at some point in time -- agree to snap out of it. Agree to make a cognitive shift in your thinking.

And as women, we can't shy away from celebrating our successes simply because we fear that they'll be held against us. We must be willing to overcome the perception of the naysayers.

Overcoming perceptions Many experts tell women to just act more like men and they'll be fine -- I totally disagree with such a theory. I don't think women have to be more like men to advance their careers. Not only is it offensive, it's counterproductive in the long run because we're not being true to ourselves.

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