Why are women more anxious asking for pay rises?

By HR Magazine

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Techniques to overcome anxiety can help but organisations must also look to structural issues holding women back.

Women are 37% more likely to experience workplace anxiety than men when negotiating a pay rise, and 39% more likely to feel nervous in a job interview, according to a report from RADA in Business.

The Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety report surveyed 1,000 businesses to see how employees are affected by anxiety in corporate environments, and found a disparity between the causes of social anxiety between men and women at work.

It revealed that while women were more likely to be anxious in situations where they had to stand their ground, male employees felt more nervous in everyday social situations. Male employees were found to be 45% more likely than women to feel anxious when socialising with colleagues, and 14% said that small talk makes them nervous.

Team building events were found to be more challenging for men, with almost a fifth (19%) reporting feelings of anxiety in these situations. Work social events followed, with 17% reporting anxiety here.


Differences in confidence need to be understood, but how?   

Elisabeth Kelan, professor of leadership at Cranfield School of Business is cited in agreeing, that the differences in confidence levels between men and women at work are part of a wider, structural issue of gender bias.

“There is no harm in men or women learning skills to be more confident. But I’m quite sceptical of the idea that women can progress in their careers if they just learn how to negotiate effectively,” she said.

"Our research has shown that it’s not the case that women are not asking for a pay rises – they are, and often are still not getting them. Women can develop themselves through acquiring these skills, but if they’re still not getting results, it then becomes their fault; it can be a trap.”

Kelan added: “We need to move away from the argument that women are responsible for not getting ahead in the workplace, and start looking at what employers can do. If the opportunities are there, and women have line managers who take an interest in their career progression, encourage them, and tell them where they see them in three years’ time, they’ll be far more confident at work than they would be with employers who never bring it up.”


Cranfield has 25 years of research into women’s leadership and this programme includes this expertise. The programme directors currently work internationally with clients who want to use the latest thinking on leadership practices in their senior roles. 

This programme will: help you develop leadership practices that fit with your personal values and preferences; help you work with the political landscape in which senior leadership roles are embedded. It will provide you with the knowledge and mind-set to overcome the barriers to further success and to increase your promotional opportunities.

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