In the January 26, 2015, New York Times Article by Anna North, titled, “Who Gets a Raise?”, the issue of increases in wages and who could ask for an increase in pay, is raised--especially for women. This year, it is expected that big health insurers are planning to increase their pay, but this situation will not benefit everyone equally.
When looking at a study talked about in The Atlantic, it shows that of those that asked for raises, women had worse outcomes than men in actually getting those increased wages; women were turned down 21% of the time, while men were turned down 10% of the time. Many argue that women do not speak up and ask for raises as frequently as men, but others, such as Dr. Joan C. Williams, argue that “women who do ask for raises tend to be disliked, and often end up making lower starting salaries.” This points to the stereotypes that are burdened on women of being modest and self-effacing, and not being seen as the breadwinners of their families, unlike men.
Race also plays a major role in with gender in seeing who gets increased wages. Professor Robert Livingston believes that the stereotypical expectations are different for African American women, because they are believed to be more direct than their Caucasian counterparts. Though, when a mistake is done, they are the first ones to be let go of, before a Caucasian women or another African-American man. In a survey conducted by Dr. Williams, Katherine Phillips, and Erika Hall, it was found that African-American women had more ‘leeway’ to behave in dominant ways, Asian-American women faced greater disapproval for behaving assertively, and Latina women were labeled as being too angry or emotional when asserting themselves.
One of the ways the article proposes to combat this issue of race in gender in the workforce, is through constant feedback. The article did not go into what ‘feedback’ would entail, but it did point out that it would have to be more frequent than just through annual performance appraisal times (e.g. have it be done quarterly or monthly). The article also discusses having mentors that have leadership positions for women, especially those of color, to develop a trusting relationship and therefore be able to get constant feedback regarding the work environment and the barriers those women are facing. At the end of the day, organizations and companies have to take proactive steps in trying to bring structural changes around raises and promotions, and not just wait until it gets out of hand.
I believe this article only touched upon the surface of this particular issue, but it did open a great deal of room for debate on how this issue can be resolved. There are individuals in the workforce that try not to completely break the stereotypes because they are afraid of the repercussions on their professional careers. Therefore, it makes it difficult to change this pattern of women not asking for raises. Would it be more beneficial if the structure and atmosphere of asking for raises and having the equal opportunity of getting one be more feasible than just expecting change from the individual level?
Post by Bhumi B. Bhakta, a first-year Masters of Public Health student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.
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