Sugar, spice and everything nice might be society's traditional recipe for acceptable women, but it's not a great way to pay the rent. According to a new study out of Israel's Tel Aviv University, being nice puts women at a disadvantage in the workplace.
"We found that women were consistently and objectively status-detracted, which means they invest more of themselves in their jobs than they receive, and are compensated less than their male colleagues across the board," explained Michal Biron, a professor at Israel's Haifa University who worked on the study.
That, unfortunately, is nothing new — as the funny video below proves. But the researchers also found that women who broke out of traditional gender expectations and acted more dominant and demanding, rather than nice and agreeable, managed to up their salaries. Nice women, on the other hand, got fewer promotions and lower salaries than everybody else.
The real world truth hurts
To discover this latest piece of the elusive gender income gap puzzle, researchers from Israel and The Netherlands randomly selected 375 employees from a Dutch electronics company and compared tenure, education and performance data to promotion statistics and income. They also compared education, performance and experience to income and rank.
"... dominant women were not punished for reflecting such female-incongruent traits as extroversion and assertiveness," explained Renee de Reuver, a researcher from Tilburg University who worked on the study. "In fact, we found that the more dominant a woman is at work, the less likely she is to be status-detracted. We found a similar pattern among men – the more dominant a man is, the more likely he is to be better compensated."
Unfortunately, the news goes south pretty quickly. Leaning in can only get you so far.
"But alarmingly, dominant women were still found to earn less than even the most agreeable men who aren't promoted," de Reuver continued.
Apparently, dominant women get paid more than agreeable women, and dominant men receive more than agreeable men. But men across the board receive more than women across the board. Even the most submissive men get higher salaries than dominant women.
Gender matters, even on eBay. When the sellers are women, they tend to get about 80 percent of what a man would get for the same item, a 2016 study found. (Photo: PathDoc/Shutterstock)
Culture change (is hard)
It's easy to say that women should just be more dominant, but that's tough in a culture that trains women to be submissive from childhood.
"We have witnessed dramatic changes in the definition of traditionally male and female qualities over the past several decades. But some people still really cling to the idea that some qualities are exclusively male and exclusively female," explained Sharon Toker, a professor at Israel's Tel Aviv University who worked on the study. "Some professional women are still afraid to exhibit a trait that's incongruent with presumed notions of female character. The result is financial retribution."
It might be easier to just stop training people to reward masculine characteristics in the workplace. Besides, women generally don't have any idea this is going on.
"We found that women aren't aware that more agreeable women are being punished for being nice," said Biron. "The nice women we polled in our study even believed they were earning more than they deserved."
As a society, we need to quit punishing women for being women. But in the short term, if you're a women, try being more of a jerk. It could just pay off.