Women are increasingly asking for better pay. Men still want more


“What’s your salary range?” There are few more unpleasant questions that a recruiter can ask, quite similar to the awkward, “Do you like what I’ve done with my hair?” There’s also “Which parent is your favorite?” and “What’s your deal?” Then again, some people can handle said questions more easily than others, and when it comes to compensation expectations, men tend to be okay with asking for more.

When it comes to a “reservation wage,” or the average amount for which someone would leave their current job, these underlying attitudes are revealed. Women are making strides in pushing for more, as the Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer expectations shows they have boosted their ask by 11% in the past year, more than double the rate men have boosted theirs. And yet, in a not so shocking turn of events, men on average think they deserve more than women do.

The most recent survey information from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that the wage floor reached a record high of almost $79,000 this summer. It’s been steadily rising each year, as employees expected $72,900 in 2022 and $69,000 the year prior. And while everyone wants more, men want the most. Their average reservation wage was almost $25,000 more than it was for women, at $91,048 for men, compared with $66,068 for women.

Here’s a deeper look at the data.

Still at 82 cents to the dollar

Making the most of a relatively strong hiring situation and a low unemployment rate, workers aren’t looking to settle for a job that doesn’t pay up. There’s a need for higher salaries today, when many, especially young individuals, are struggling to afford housing and living comfortably in a time characterized by high student debt and inflation. The discrepancy between what men and women think they need to get by in difficult times is likely owing in part to what both have historically been compensated. 

Women might expect less simply because they’ve been given less. Even just last year, they earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned. That’s largely where the discrepancy was a decade ago in 2002, though the cost of living has increased since then, as Pew Research Center points out. And the wage gap becomes even starker for Black women, Latina women, and Native American women, per data from Lean In. It’s hitting Gen Z, too, as young women expect on average $6,000 less than men do, according to a report from Handshake. And even when they are paid as much, working mothers face added issues that dock their pay like the motherhood penalty and taking time off work to shoulder the brunt of childcare (which leads to their having less retirement savings than their male counterparts).

Working women aren’t just tackling an increasingly expensive economy with a relatively stagnant gender wage gap, they’re also tackling the cost of childcare. After being largely pushed out during the pandemic to take on the brunt of such care, many have returned, but they still grapple with a large slice of their paycheck going to the hiked cost of childcare. It all means they’re saving less for retirement than men on average, as they are forced to take a break from the workforce, pay more for childcare, or are simply paid less by nature of being a mother.

The root of the stagnant wage gap isn’t all that clear, as Megan Leonhardt once pointed out in Fortune, with even researchers at the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau unable to account for 70% of what contributed to this phenomenon, largely pointing to systematic discrimination as a major factor. And the misconception that women don’t ask for raises has recently been debunked, though many still are looking for more money—and aren’t getting it.

Either way, it seems as if for every dollar a man makes, women are still raking in less. And for every job a woman wants, a man wants a higher salary for it. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t hungry for more.

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