Ginning up the courage to ask for a raise is tough in any labour market, let alone one ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. But men are exhibiting more moxie than women when it comes to bargaining for better pay during the pandemic.
That is the finding of a study (PDF) released this week by Moody’s Analytics and Morning Consult that surveyed 5,000 adult workers in mid-September.
The study found that overall, 23 percent of workers who are employed said the pandemic has made them less likely to ask for a raise in pay or benefits, compared to 18 percent who described themselves as more willing to do so.
But a drill down into the data reveals that the pandemic is widening gender gaps that predate it.
Across all major demographic groups, women were far less likely to ask their employer for better compensation or benefits, the study found.
Only 15 percent of women said they had asked for raise from their employer during the pandemic, compared to 20 percent of men. And some 28 percent of women said they feel they have less power to do so, compared to only 21 percent of men.
The gender gap was also observed in women’s willingness to negotiate a starting salary – all of which makes it even tougher to close the wage gap between men and women.
“When taken in combination, these represent a significant headwind against women closing the pay gap,” said the report.
Myriad metrics have shown that women – especially women of colour – are bearing the brunt of the financial fallout of the pandemic.
Women and minorities held a disproportionate share of customer-facing service jobs that were gutted by coronavirus restrictions.
And as daycare centres remain shut and more schooling shifts to remote learning, the growing burden of childcare has also fallen more on working mothers than working fathers.
A previous study by Moody’s found that women were twice as likely as men to have cut back on the hours they work to look after children during the pandemic.
These growing divides have consequences that stretch into the future by leaving women less well-positioned to gain financially as the economy recovers.
“As women become less willing to ask for increases in pay or benefits, it becomes less likely that they will financially benefit to the same extent as men from future improvements in the economy,” the report warns.
Nearly one-third of essential workers have had a pay increase due to their increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. But here, too, gender differences were observed in the survey, with 55 percent of male respondents considering themselves essential compared to 48 percent of women.
The Moody’s study adds to a growing body of evidence that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-pandemic gender, racial, income and education divides with financial wellbeing.
Beyond gender, the survey results revealed a noticeable generational divide. Workers between 18 and 34 were nearly twice as likely to have asked for a pay increase than workers 65 and older.
Gulfs have also grown across education levels. Just over a quarter of survey respondents with post-graduate degrees were more willing to ask for a pay bump, compared to 17 percent with less than a college degree and 16 percent with a bachelor’s degree.