One common theory to explain the pay gap between men and women assigns blame to women themselves: Maybe they just aren't asking for raises.
But a study of Australian women has found that they were asking for salary increases as much as their male colleagues — men were just more likely to actually get one.
The study, released last week by the Cass Business School in London, the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin, found that when comparing men and women who work similar hours, men got a raise 20 percent of the time they asked, compared with 16 percent for women. About 70 percent of men and women in the sample said they had asked for a raise.
Though the study did not offer solutions, Dr. Amanda Goodall, one of the authors, said in an interview that it did narrow the possible explanations for the disparities.
"If we find that women are asking and aren't getting the pay rises, it points the finger toward discrimination," said Goodall, senior lecturer in management at Cass Business School.
The study also examined whether women were reticent about asking for a raise out of fear of upsetting their bosses. The data suggests not: While 14.6 percent of men said they had not tried to get a raise because they were concerned about workplace relationships, 12.9 percent of women said they had held back.
The pay gap between genders has been widely acknowledged, but identifying causes and solutions has long been the source of political and cultural debate. President Barack Obama has attempted to crack down on the disparities, requiring companies to report to the U.S. government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity.
Women more often do not have the ability to negotiate. While 48 percent of men in the study said they were in jobs that allowed them to negotiate wages, 33 percent of women said the same.
The study's authors did find some hope: Women under 40 were receiving raises at a similar rate to male colleagues. The challenge, Goodall said, will be watching whether the pay of those women continues to keep pace with the men's as they climb to more senior ranks.