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Gender Equality

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RMU Poll: Women (Still) Don’t Negotiate, Think Employers Keep Them in the Dark About Pay

  • Many agree employers believe women need less income
  • Most agree women too polite to negotiate salaries/raises
  • Two-thirds believe employers hide salaries to avoid gender comparisons
  • Separate Pennsylvania results are available

PITTSBURGH – A majority of Americans believe their employers keep them in the dark about their coworkers’ salaries to hide gender comparisons that favor men, according to a survey by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute Powered by Trib Total Media.

The RMU Polling Institute surveyed 1,006 adults regarding women and the American workforce. Two-thirds of those surveyed, 68.4%, agreed with a statement that read “Most employers hide salaries to avoid comparisons of equal pay for equal jobs among men and women.” The percent agreeing was significantly higher among females (73.6%) than males (63.9%).

Most respondents recognized that women, on average, receive less pay for equivalent work than men. Only 30.3% of all Americans surveyed indicated they believed women, in this country, receive equal pay for equal work. By a two-to-one margin, males (41.8%) are significantly more likely than females (18.0%) to say women receive equal pay for equal work. Respondents who reported being owners of a business were most likely, at 47.5%, to suggest women receive equal pay for equal work.

Three-fifths, 60.8%, of all respondents indicated they agreed that most employers see women as “not needing pay that is equal to their male counterparts in the same positions.” The percent is higher, at 69.1%, among females and significantly lower among males at 53.3%.

“If employers think that women are earning a supplemental income, that is increasingly not the case. A steadily rising number of women are the primary breadwinners for their families,” said Peggy Outon, executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.

The Bayer Center is spearheading the 74% Initiative, which addresses gender disparities in pay in the nonprofit sector, where women – who comprise 74% of the workforce – earn about 74 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Over half of all respondents on the RMU poll, 57.2%, agreed that women are less likely to negotiate for initial salaries and subsequent raises than men, a well-documented phenomenon. In fact, among respondents to the RMU poll, 61.1% of men said they had negotiated a raise or starting salary at their job, while only 46.6% of women said they had done so.

Three-fifths, 61.5%, of all respondents (52.3% among men and 71.4% among women) agreed that women are more polite and thus view the act of negotiation differently than men.

“Women look for cues regarding negotiation, like whether salary is described in a job posting as ‘flexible’” said Daria Crawley, associate professor of management at RMU.

Just one-third of all respondents, 33.3%, agreed that jobs and titles being equal, women are promoted as frequently as men. Twice as many males (43.0%) as females (22.8%) agreed. Among business owners surveyed, the percent was 48.5%.

A large majority of all respondents, 89.1%, strongly or somewhat agreed that it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure equal pay for equal work in the workplace. This percentage was similar among women, men, and business owners.

“Women and men think the organization is going to take care of them. But clearly the organization is not,” said Crawley. “Women put a significant amount of trust in their employer but need to focus on taking control of their own careers.”

Nearly two-thirds (63.8%) of all respondents indicated they have a good idea of what others at their current or former workplace earn.

More than one-quarter of all respondents, 28.8% (28.3% among males and 29.2% among females) suggested they have feared revenge or a form of payback if they asked for a raise or promotion at their current or former workplace.

ABOUT THE POLL: The Poll was conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute Powered by Trib Total Media. Polling by the Institute is conducted on a regular basis and may also include spontaneous polling on occurring events.

METHODOLOGY: The Poll sampled opinions of 1006 approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide.  The survey was conducted February 15 – 21, 2014. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis. 

ABOUT ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY: Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Learn more at

ABOUT TRIB TOTAL MEDIA: Trib Total Media is a multimedia network of daily and weekly newspapers, weekly shoppers, and websites delivering news, information and advertising to over 1.2 million readers across Western Pennsylvania every week. Trib Total Media also provides targeted direct mail, commercial printing and promotional item services.  Visit us online at and get it right. Now.