Nice Women Earn Far Less Than Assertive Ones, Study Shows

By Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels December 05, 2016 Comments

Ladies, stop being so nice! A new Israeli study finds that the more agreeable you are at work, the lower your salary is likely to be.

Conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers, the study examined status inconsistencies between men and women through the lens of traditional male and female characteristics. It found that dominant, assertive women, who clearly express their expectations and do not retreat from their demands, are compensated better than their more accommodating female peers.

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business women

According to the researchers, the same goes for dominant men versus their more conciliatory male counterparts — but even dominant women earn far less than all of their male colleagues, dominant or otherwise.

The study, recently published in The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, was conducted by TAU‘s Prof. Sharon Toker, Dr. Michal Biron of the University of Haifa, and Dr. Renee De Reuver of the Tilburg University in The Netherlands.

Financial retribution: Women are punished for being pleasant  

“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,” Toker said in a statement. “Some professional women are still afraid to exhibit a trait that’s incongruent with presumed notions of female character. The result is financial retribution.”

According to Biron, “agreeable women are being punished for being nice. The nice women we polled in our study even believed they were earning more than they deserved.”

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For the purpose of their study, the researchers surveyed 375 men and women at a Dutch firm. The subjects were randomly selected from all 12 of the company departments. The researchers used criteria such as tenure, education, performance, income, and promotion statistics. They also examined how the individual perceived the fit between their education, experience, and performance on the one hand, and their income and rank on the other.

More effort for less return

“We found that women were consistently and objectively status-detracted, which means they invest more of themselves in their jobs than they receive; and are compensated less than their male colleagues across the board,” Biron says.

However, dominant women were not punished for assertiveness. “In fact, we found that the more dominant a woman is at work, the less likely she is to be status-detracted. We found a similar pattern among men — the more dominant a man is, the more likely he is to be better compensated. But alarmingly, dominant women were still found to earn less than even the most agreeable men who aren’t promoted,” De Reuver said in a statement.

Nearly all the employees responded that they felt dissatisfied with their input-compensation ratio, but agreeable and non-dominant women said they felt they earned too much.

“This blew our minds,” Toker says. “The data show that they earn the least — far less than what they deserve. And they rationalize the situation, making it less likely that they will make appropriate demands for equal pay.”

woman on phone

Photos: Nick Karvounis

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