Canadian women starting their careers still expect to earn considerably less than men, wait longer then men for promotions, and have lower salaries after five years of working, according to a soon-to-be-released study. This despite the fact that some believe we are reaching the point of equality in the workplace. Why is this happening? Why do women still have these expectations?
The study analyzed 23,000 Canadian university students’ responses to career-related questions. Among it’s key findings, young women expect:
- An average initial salary 13.5 percent lower than young men for equivalent jobs
- To wait 12 percent longer to get their first promotion
- Salaries after five years of working that are 17.5 percent less than men anticipate
This is unsettling. Even the researchers were surprised. They concluded that the gap in salary expectations appears not to have closed at all.
Why is this still happening? The mere reaction to the study findings should be a strong indicator that something is not right.
Here’s a potential clue: another interesting finding was that the gender gap in pre-career salary expectations was greatest in traditionally male-dominated fields. So, too, are the actual earnings gaps in these fields. The researchers suggested that, though young women are entering male-dominated fields in greater numbers, this does not automatically lead to more equality for women in the labour market.
Why? Women form their expectations based on historical gender-role stereotyping and discrimination present in the labour market.
Could this be why they preferred “beta” career priorities (things like work-life balance leading to lower salaries) compared to men who preferred “alpha” career priorities (things such as quick advancement and building a sound financial base)?
After synthesizing the results, the researchers suggested:
- Educators and career counsellors should continue to encourage young women to pursue careers that have been traditionally dominated by men
- Government programs should continue to address the under-representation of women in male-dominated fields
- Women in senior positions should try to act as role models for young women to show it is possible to break into male-dominated fields and senior management, and provide access to important networks
- Women should ask themselves whether they want to make a trade-off between salary and work-life balance
- Women must be firm when negotiating and demanding what their male counterparts are expecting
This study and its resulting suggestions reminds me of a book I read (a few times) by Lois Frankel, titled, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office 101: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers.
This is one of my favourite books. It is premised upon the notion that women have internalized some traditional values and beliefs concerning their roles in society that hold them back in their careers.
As a result, women unconsciously make some significant mistakes, particularly in these ways:
- How you play the game
- How you act
- How you think
- How you brand and market yourself
- How you sound
- How you look
- How you respond
(These categories correspond to the book’s chapters.)
Altogether, there are 101 mistakes listed in the book. Highly recommended.
What do you think? Do you believe that the root of the problem involves historical gender-role stereotyping and discrimination that finds its way into the labour market? Could this be why women continue to have both lower expectations and lower earnings then men?
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor