53. Why Women are Overworked and Underpaid with Linda Babcock

November 1, 2022

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn't cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don't personally use or believe in.

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

Women are statistically overworked and underpaid

But what can they actually do about it?

According to Carnegie Mellon Professor of Economics, Linda Bacock –– quite a bit.

In today’s episode of Financial Feminist, Tori is joined by Professor Babcock to talk about all the ways in which women are overworked and underpaid, and how they can change that trajectory to building a healthier and more sustainable workload balance and get compensated fairly in comparison to their male counterparts.

What you’ll learn: 

  • The factors that go into the gender wage gap (outside of baseline pay)

  • The danger of taking on “non-promotable tasks”

  • If pay transaprency is harming or helping

  • The affect of the gender wage gap on women of color

Linda’s Links

Get a copy of “The No Club”


Meet Linda

Linda Babcock is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the author of Women Don’t Ask and Ask for It. A behavioral economist, she is the founder and director of PROGRESS, which pursues positive social change for women and girls through education, partnerships, and research. Babcock’s media appearances include Good Morning America, ABC’s World News Tonight, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, USA TODAY, and more.


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Tori Dunlap (00:00):

Hello, Financial Feminists. Thank you for being here. As always, thank you for your support. You’re getting the chiller version of me today because I have a sore throat and my voice is giving out a little bit. I start recording my audiobook for the book Financial Feminist in two days. If you’ve ever recorded an audiobook before, you know that it is a grind. It is a very thrilling, but kind of grueling process where you’re in a sound booth for six hours, multiple days, just talking into a microphone. Now, that sounds idyllic. However, I have done some voice work before. And let me tell you, after about hour one, you’re like, “My voice is gone. It’s gone,” and then you realize you have 18 more hours.


You have 18 more hours of recording to do. Okay, so I’m going to chill today. Can I do like an ASMR intro? I actually was told though by my theater professors that whispering is worse for your voice, so maybe we’re not going to do that. Support the book. Buy the book. Buy the audiobook. We so appreciate it. Oh, there’s so much work that’s gone into it, but that’s why we’re keeping it chill. Today’s episode is a fantastic one for anyone who’s ever worked or plans to work in the corporate world or really any type of employment.


We are joined by renowned behavioral economics professor Linda Babcock to talk about the ways women often hinder their own growth in the workplace, often without realizing the ways that they’re stifling their own potential. As I mentioned, Linda Babcock is a behavioral economics professor at Carnegie Mellon. She’s the author of Women Don’t Ask and Ask For It, as well as being the founder and director of PROGRESS, which is The Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society. That’s a hell of an acronym. In her new book, she strives to put an end to dead-end non-promotable tasks becoming women’s work.


We talk more about this in the episode, but think about note-taking in a meeting or planning birthday celebrations, the things that often get tasked to women identifying people that don’t actually help you in your career. Her work generally focuses on what the barriers are to women’s advancement in the workplace, and she has a new book called The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. It’s a must listen episode for women and anyone who employs women, especially if you’re in a traditional workplace and especially if you find yourself often nudged into these non-promotable tasks that we get more into in the episode.


But spoiler alert, designated note-taker is definitely one of those tasks. Let’s go ahead and get into it. I forget when we record this in the morning, my voice is like three octaves lower than it would be normally. Not literally three octaves, but it’s definitely lower. You teach at Carnegie Mellon, correct?

Linda Babcock (02:52):

That’s right. I’m in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and the Heinz College of Public Policy.

Tori Dunlap (02:59):

Amazing. My dad is from the Pittsburgh area and we would drive by Carnegie Mellon all the time driving to visit family. That’s so great. What does the day-to-day work for you as a behavioral economics professor look like and can you explain the concept of that in layman’s terms?

Linda Babcock (03:16):

Behavioral economics examines behavior decision-making policy, integrating perspectives from economics and psychology. It brings in more realism into how people actually behave and think into the analysis of those factors. I do research on different kinds of questions. For the past 20 years, I’ve been, of course, obsessed by women’s issues and the barriers to women’s advancement. I look at those really from multiple perspectives, certainly economics and psychology, but also sociology, anthropology, political science, communications, organizational behavior, law. It’s really integrating multiple kinds of perspectives into my science.

Tori Dunlap (04:01):

Do you find that your work has dramatically shifted post-pande
mic, or really I don’t even know if we’re post-pandemic at this point, but coming through that, do you find your work is very different now?

Linda Babcock (04:13):

That’s actually really hard to say. I’d say for most of my colleagues, they’re still doing their research, but their teaching whole mission has completely shifted. Finding ways to connect and communicate with students online is really, really hard.

Tori Dunlap (04:25):

It’s really hard. I have a good friend of mine who is a middle school science teacher, so slightly different, but we would talk all the time about how difficult it was with online learning and then half in, half out, so they would come to school for half the time. She was like, “It’s hard enough to get the kids to focus when they’re in person, yet alone when they are in front of a laptop.” The working world, as we know, was largely built by cisgendered white men and for cisgendered white men.


It’s still the case today in probably most workplaces, at least many workplaces. How has this impacted women in the workplace cycle? From application to you get a job offer and you’re trying to negotiate and then beyond that to their experience once they’re there, how is this affecting every part of a woman’s career?

Linda Babcock (05:17):

Yeah, you’re right. The culture has definitely been structured in favor of white men, typically cisgender, who have typically a wife at home, at least that’s historically how most men at the top of their organizations. That’s really been structured with norms about how much to work, when to work, being on call all the time. Those set of norms around how often you work has definitely been set that way. That’s probably the most obvious thing. But other norms as well, you mentioned negotiation, and certainly many workplaces are set up with the norm of you eat what you kill. That is that you only get what you ask for, what you take.


And that’s a very masculine type of norm. It becomes problematic for women because, of course, even in today’s society, women are still seen as communal, that is being other oriented, kind, helpful. Negotiating and standing up for yourself is not consistent with those norms. What happens is when women try to negotiate… I’ve done a lot of research, I have two books on women negotiating. When women try to negotiate, there’s often backlash against them because it seems counternormative from what they should be doing, even though the men are doing it and it’s perfectly fine. That’s another way in which the system is rigged against women.


And then in our latest work, our new book coming out The No Club, we look at what we call non-promotable work. This is work that helps the organization, but does not advance the career of the person who does it. These tasks typically fall to women. The problem with that is that women are not rewarded for these tasks. They’re not recognized in their performance evaluations. It takes time away from the work that really will matter and help them succeed. They can appear to be less productive because they’re spending their time on these non-promotable tasks, and it really harms women advancements. That’s one other way that the workplace as it’s currently structured is problematic for women.

Tori Dunlap (07:39):

I think of in my own career before I started HFK, before I became my own business owner, I think one very common non-promotable task for women is the designated note taker at meetings. You’re the person doing the emotional labor of basically being an administrative assistant in addition to the job that you’re expected to do. Can you give us examples of other non-promotable tasks or tasks that you’ve seen women consistently get assigned with very little benefit to their career?

Linda Babcock (08:14):

Absolutely. You’re right that note takers is the prototypical one, but there’s also all the work that involves, say orienting new employees, helping other people with their work, filling in for people while they’re away, resolving workplace conflicts, which happen behind the scenes that women typically do, serving on industry or organization wide task forces that won’t be recognized. Often DEI initiatives are non-promotable task.


Last year there was a study by McKinsey and Lean In. They interviewed employers and what they found is that 70% of employers said that DEI initiatives were critical for the functioning of their organizations, but only 24% said they actually rewarded the people who did these initiatives. As you can imagine…

Tori Dunlap (09:09):

Unfortunately, that sounds about right.

Linda Babcock (09:11):

Yes, exactly. You can imagine who is doing these initiatives, of course, women and people of color. They’re deemed important, but not rewarded. Those are some of the kinds of activities that are non-promotable. You might think, “Well, so you’re doing this small thing or this small thing.” But as we see in our book, a ton of feathers still wei
ghs a ton. That is a ton of these small tasks add up to really being a drag on women’s careers.

Tori Dunlap (09:42):

I think it’s a larger, and you can correct me if I’m wrong or add to it, I think it’s a larger societal issue is that we just don’t reward this work. We don’t think it’s valuable work. Women are largely in jobs of care taking, so teacher, nurse, whatever these jobs are, and then they are penalized for it or not paid market rates because it’s like, oh, it’s a care taking job and it’s largely done by women. It’s this cyclical thing.


I think with something like the emotional labor or trying to understand how different colleagues can work together, that’s not something you can put in an Excel spreadsheet and be like, “This person brought in X amount of money,” but really the organization falls apart unless you have somebody who’s doing that kind of work. Is that part of it too is that we’re not seeing the actual monetary value of the work and therefore we don’t think it’s promotable?

Linda Babcock (10:39):

You make two really interesting points. The first is at a kind of systematic level in terms of the economic structure, and that is that certain kinds of work because women do it is undervalued in terms of occupations. For example, teaching.

Tori Dunlap (10:55):

You said what I was trying to say very eloquently. Thank you.

Linda Babcock (10:59):

Teaching used to be a really incredibly prestigious occupation and paid well when men were teachers. As women flowed into the teaching profession, it became devalued and it’s because women were in it. That’s kind of at the macro level. Within an organization, you’re absolutely right. This work that we call non-promotable is done behind the scenes. It’s typically invisible, you’re right. It doesn’t show up on a spreadsheet because often people don’t know that you did it.


If you are resolving a conflict, or if you’re helping someone with their work, that isn’t going to show up. It is important work, the organization would not prosper if people didn’t do these things, but the women who are doing these are not rewarded for that work.

Tori Dunlap (11:51):

Is the answer fuck all all non-promotable tasks and we’re just not going to do them? Is that the answer?

Linda Babcock (11:58):

Well, organizations would have a real problem if people stopped doing this work. That’s clearly not the answer. But you really hit on something extremely important, and that is this is a difficult problem for women to solve on their own. Because if I just say, “Hey, Tori, just start saying no to all this non-promotable work,” first of all, the organization isn’t going to do well because you’re not doing it anymore. And secondly, people are going to say nasty things about you because you’re not a team player or other words I probably don’t want to say on your podcast.

Tori Dunlap (12:36):

I mean, she’s a bitch, right? That’s probably the big one.

Linda Babcock (12:39):

Thank you. That’s exactly right.

Tori Dunlap (12:40):

She’s being difficult. She’s difficult. She’s not great to get along with. Yeah, totally.

Linda Babcock (12:45):

We’ve all heard these words and they’re words that are really reserved to describe women who aren’t helpful, kind, and other oriented. You can see that those things are problematic then. What is the answer? We believe the answer is that our organizations need to change. Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science. It is easy to change the way work is allocated. If you are taking notes in a meeting this week, someone else takes it next week. Let’s draw names out of a hack to see who does it this week. Set up a schedule to assign this work so that it’s more equitable, because it needs to get done. It’s important work, but it’s not fair to disproportionately burden some groups with this work.

Tori Dunlap (13:30):

I think back, my last job before I became a full-time entrepreneur, one of my good friends at that job was hired as a software engineer, but she had trained as a therapist before. She was like this beautiful hybrid of now working a tech job but having all of these skills to mediate conflict. It was a startup, so there was a lot of egos. The really beautiful thing is actually she was compensated for both of those things.


She was compensated for the actual work she was doing as a software engineer, and then part of her compensation and part of why the team knew she was so valuable was the fact that she was there mediating conflicts and figuring out how do we get this person to talk to this person in a way that connects. It was really, really interesting and actually such a breath of fresh air of not only realizing that this woman’s skills were so far beyond tech and that was valuable, but also rewarding her for those skills.

Linda Babcock (14:29):

That’s a really rare story. It’s not kind of the stories that we’ve been hearing from women about how this work goes really unrewarded and how problematic it is. It’s quite amazing that this company really realized that this was a valuable skill and found a way to reward her with it.

Tori Dunlap (14:48):

Yeah, I definitely know it’s not common, but even looking at it, I was like, this is lovely. This is what it should be.

Linda Babcock (14:54):

It’s more often taken for granted that, well, you have these skills and you’re going to use them, but that’s sort of an extra, it’s not really what we do here, and so it gets discounted.

Tori Dunlap (15:06):

One of the things you touched on earlier that I would love to explore some more, I’m a negotiation coach. I teach women how to negotiate. However, even if a woman can waltz into a negotiation and be completely prepared, she can still hear the word no. I think this is, again, why society needs to be more comfortable with women asking for what they’re worth, as well as organizations. But what are you seeing in addition to that? What sort of narratives or perspectives happen that penalize women when they do negotiate? I think of the one like, “Oh, she’s not grateful for the opportunity.” What sort of those narratives do you see commonly in your work when a woman does actually have the tools she needs to negotiate?

Linda Babcock (15:51):

It’s more likely that a woman when she negotiates compared to a man is going to be seen as being difficult, that people don’t want to work with her because she’s too aggressive. She’s displaying all this counternormative behavior. Like you said, that becomes problematic. But I think even more, it may be the case that women just don’t get what they’re asking for. It seems wrong for women to be negotiating and so people just take a harder line against them.


It makes it harder for women to negotiate for increases in pay, for promotions, for different work assignments, for other factors that may be really important that men are getting and being allowed to negotiate for. That’s the other factor that we see is she might get penalized socially and within the network, but also instrumentally not getting what she’s negotiated for.

Tori Dunlap (16:51):

Many people argue that part of the wage gap is that women aren’t aggressive in negotiations or aren’t aggressive enough. Is there any truth to that?

Linda Babcock (17:01):

Well, certainly I’ve written about that in my book Women Don’t Ask and I think it is responsible for some of the wage gap. I think that is starting to change. I think there’s more attention in the media about the importance of negotiating. Just in the last couple days, I’ve done multiple interviews with media outlets about negotiating and now is a good time to negotiate. I think there’s a lot of attention to that.


I think the biggest factor that we’re seeing right now in terms of barriers to women’s advancement is this one that’s been hiding in plain sight, and that is how men and women are spending their time at work and this issue about how women are getting tasked with these assignments that aren’t going to help them succeed. We can fix negotiation processes. We can fix hiring. We can fix evaluation.


But if ultimately the things that matters most is what you’re doing day to day to day on your job and what output you’re producing, men and women aren’t in the same race because women are carrying around this heavy load of non-promotable work that’s holding them back. We could design a lot of procedures around evaluation, but if the fundamental truth on the ground doesn’t change about this issue of how people are spending their time, we’re not going to solve the problems of inequity in the workplace no matter how hard we try.

Tori Dunlap (18:27):

It sounds like we almost have three different issues that all are compiling together. We have women are tasked with non-promotable work that makes it really difficult for them to advance in their career. Women are not negotiating at the same rate men are or don’t feel like they have the tools or the strategies they need to negotiate. And then third, if they do negotiate, sometimes they are p
unished or deemed, again, ungrateful or difficult. I put myself in the shoes of the listener. I’m thinking to myself, maybe I just don’t negotiate, right? Because if I’m going to get punished for it, but I, as a negotiation coach, of course, don’t think that’s the answer.


Again, these are larger systemic issues. This is what we talk about on Financial Feminist is there’s only so much we can do as individuals. What is within our control? Do we forego negotiating in order to assimilate more? Is that the answer?

Linda Babcock (19:29):

It’s a great question and I think there are several ways to answer this. One is there are certainly ways to negotiate, and I’ve spent my career teaching negotiations and I know you have too, that there are certainly ways to negotiate that doesn’t produce the kind of backlash that we’ve been talking about. If you think about negotiation as collaborative, as cooperative, as a dialogue, let’s discuss and you frame the negotiation and use all the words that are associated with doing those activities, it’s going to go a lot better for several reasons.

Tori Dunlap (20:07):

Linda, I’m smiling and shaking my head because I’ve literally said on countless interviews, negotiations are collaborations, not conflicts.

Linda Babcock (20:14):


Tori Dunlap (20:15):

Because I think we’re told, it’s like a fight to the death. It’s like, no, you’re not on opposing teams. You’re on the same team as your boss or your potential boss trying to find a solution to a problem.

Linda Babcock (20:24):

That’s exactly right. What the research says is not only is that collaborative, cooperative approach more effective at getting what you want, it isn’t going to produce this backlash that we’ve talked about. To really see that as a dialogue, problem solving how you and your employer can reach a solution that works for you both. I’d say that’s on the negotiation side. There is some reason to be hopeful and not such doom and gloom that maybe I presented it as. I think on the other side, on the non-promotable side, like I said, it is up to our organizations to change the way they allocate work, but that doesn’t mean that individual people are powerless.


In fact, we talk a lot in our book about what women can do on their own, not only to change their own schedules, but to spark change within their organization. If I want to think about my own schedule, one of the things that I need to do first is to really take stock of what I’m doing during the day. When we were writing the book, we all did this, we looked at our schedules. We tried to catalog what we were doing. I think it surprises people once they look at all the things they’re doing.


If you categorize them into promotable and non-promotable, I think you’ll be surprised how many things are showing up in that non-promotable category, to try to do some things to shift the balance more towards the promotable work. We hear a lot about work-life balance, but we call it actually work-work balance. That is the mix between promotable and non-promotable work is your work-work balance, and you’ve got to get that right. There are things that you can do to work with your supervisor to adjust that work. Again, approaching it in a really collaborative way, I want to contribute the most I can to this organization.


I’d like to work on the things that matter most. How can I start to shift my time so that I’m doing the work that’s going to be most important as you see me doing it? That’s a conversation that you can start to have.

Tori Dunlap (22:35):

That’s a beautiful way of phrasing it.

Linda Babcock (22:37):

Thanks. At the organizational level in terms of sparking change, you can get together with like-minded colleagues, whether they be other women, whether they be potentially men working as allies, to start to change some of the rules about how work is allocated. When someone asks for a volunteer, for example, to do the dreaded non-promotable task that everyone is ducking, not wanting to do, everybody should chime in, “Hey, let’s draw names out of a hat,” because then it’s less likely that that task is going to end up with a woman.


Or let’s share the work between several people so that it doesn’t fall on just one person. Or if it’s a task that comes up repeatedly, set up a schedule. You can suggest these changes. They’re incremental changes, but they can over time make a huge difference into the loads for women.

Tori Dunlap (23:46):

Do you find that men and women have different motivations when it comes to negotiating?

Linda Babcock (23:50):

Can you clarify what you mean by that?

Tori Dunlap (23:54):

For me, in my work, I’ve seen a lot of women feel like they have to negotiate more to take care of themselves of like, “I am negotiating for more money because I need to pay my bills.” I think men are more like… One, it’s more socially acceptable to negotiate and that’s their default. It’s more of a game. It’s like, “Let’s see what happens and potentially how far I can push it.” For women, it feels like life or death. I didn’t know if in your research you’ve seen any difference in the reason why men versus women actually negotiate.

Linda Babcock (24:37):

Well, we have some work on how people feel about negotiating and certainly men and women construe negotiation situations differently, that is. We report this really interesting work from Michele Gelfand, who found that women see negotiation like going to the dentist, which isn’t that fun, and men see it like winning a ballgame. If you just think about those metaphors, those are really different views of what negotiation is like. You can imagine, I don’t know about you, but I always avoid going to dentist. I don’t like it.

Tori Dunlap (25:21):

Candidly, I have not been in two and a half years, which I know is a bad thing, but I have not gone in a really long time. Both because pandemic, but also I’m like, if I don’t have to go, I’m not going to. If it’s closed, I guess I can’t go.

Linda Babcock (25:37):

If you feel that way about negotiation, you’re certainly not going to look forward to it or do it very often. We really found that these emotional views of negotiation really had impacts on people’s propensity to negotiate and just men were negotiating a lot and women had to be very, okay, deep breath, all right, I’m going to negotiate and talk yourself into it. We did find a lot of evidence of those differences between men and women. It wasn’t so much about what people were negotiating for, but just how they felt about the process and how often they did it.

Tori Dunlap (26:19):

I mean, that tracks qualitatively with the work that I’ve done where you have gurge your loins as a woman to go negotiate versus men are like, “Cool, baseball. Sounds fun. Sounds like a challenge.” I think that tracks with what I’ve heard. What sort of behaviors disadvantage people in negotiations? What sort of behaviors, words, phrases, attitudes end up preventing a negotiation from moving forward in a healthy way?

Linda Babcock (26:49):

Well, certainly threatening behavior. No one likes to be threatened. It just creates a roadblock of resistance on the other side. If you were to say something like, “If you don’t match my offer, I’m going to leave,” your employer might say, “I’ll help you pack.” Anything that is super aggressive is certainly not going to produce good outcomes for you. Like we talked about earlier, using a competitive approach is not as successful, not being prepared. I know people that spend hours and hours and hours pouring through data when they go to buy a car. You’re checking all these websites and discounts and what else do people…

Tori Dunlap (27:34):

The Kelley Blue Book.

Linda Babcock (27:35):

Exactly. Exactly. And then might walk into a negotiation over their salary and wing it. And that seems insane to me and is. Definitely you want to avoid going in unprepared and you want to make sure you do your homework and really know what’s appropriate to be asking for, how the other side sees the negotiation, what constraints you’re likely to come up against so that you can be prepared for those. Think about your approach, what kind of words am I going to use to be very positive and collaborative and to keep the dialogue? Because sometimes you get a no and a no shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.


The no can be, can you help me understand why that’s not possible, or what would I need to do to turn that into a yes, or how far do you think you could come, even if you can’t do what I asked for, how far could you come in helping to meet me halfway? Those are all very positive behaviors that we want to see in negotiations, which you know very well.

Tori Dunlap (28:42):

Yeah. Part of the script that I teach in my course called Navigating the Negotiation is I want to get to a number we can collaboratively agree on. That’s one of the phrases I think that we’ve seen work really, really well. We play the game a little bit. It’s like for women, okay, if you expect us to be grateful and expect us to be excited for our opportunities, then we’re going to do that, but we’re also going to ask for what we’re worth. It’s like the kind of playing both sides of using the societal expectation as our way to actually ho
pefully get paid or compensated fairly.

Linda Babcock (29:22):

Exactly. You can think about the two streams of things that we’ve been talking about today, negotiation and non-promotable work. You can think about joining those. That is a justification for a higher salary might be what are ways we can adjust how I’m spending my time so that I can contribute the most that I can to this organization, I’m being as productive as I can. They really are compatible and compatible with this collaborative approach.

Tori Dunlap (29:51):

I think even trying to find the monetary value of some of your tasks that were deemed like non-promotable. Again, at this previous job that I was at, it was a startup. They were very focused on company culture. I instituted a gratitude practice every week at work. And then I went into my negotiation and I had all of my marketing, because I was a social media marketer, I had all my data as to why I was doing my job and doing it well. But I also had, “Hey, I know contributing to the culture right now and establishing that is really important. I did this thing and this thing and this thing,” and that actually got me more money. I think if you can put the monetary value on it, I think that that can be helpful too.

Linda Babcock (30:33):

That’s amazing, and that’s one of the other routes to leveling the playing field for women. I talked about reassigning the work, but the other way is obviously as you suggest, Tori, is finding a way to value it.

Tori Dunlap (30:50):

Right, right. Getting compensated for it.

Linda Babcock (30:52):

Exactly. Organizations can change reward structures. Maybe this work that was before non-promotable, we can change to actually being a metric in performance evaluations. And that way, people will want to do the work and it will stop burdening women with work that’s unrewarded. That’s the other kind of big way that organizations can really succeed here.

Tori Dunlap (31:15):

How do you feel about pay transparency in general, but specifically at an individual versus institutional level? Do you think it’s helping?

Linda Babcock (31:28):

I have mixed feelings, maybe that’s the best way to put it. On the one hand, of course, pay transparency can help to eliminate systemic discrimination, because things are out in the open, companies cannot hide. You can see what the wages are and anyone can do an analysis to see if there are wage gaps that shouldn’t be there. It can really push organizations to get their act together before the wages become transparent. Obviously that’s the right thing to do, but this may be what prompts them to take those steps.


For individuals, pay transparency can be good because it lets you know if you are being valued at what you think you’re worth or what comparable colleagues are being paid. It can alert you to inequities that you’re involved with and that can prompt you to either negotiate or to try to find another job that might pay you more equitably. I think those are all definite positives. I think on the downside, pay transparency can make people unhappy.


There’s this really interesting study by economist David Card and his colleagues, and they find in an organization that for people who were paid below the median pay in their group are much unhappier when pay is transparent than when it’s opaque. You can imagine why that is. If you’re paid less than others, it’s not a very good thing to hear and it can make you feel devalued, dissatisfied with your job.

Tori Dunlap (33:16):

I challenge though, are you upset with pay transparency? Are you upset with being undercompensated?

Linda Babcock (33:22):

Definitely it’s the latter.

Tori Dunlap (33:26):

A con of like, oh, pay transparency makes me feel bad, it’s like, no, I think not getting compensated fairly makes you feel bad. You just know now.

Linda Babcock (33:34):

But someone to be below the median. I mean, that’s what a median is, half the people have to be below it and half the people above it. It might be that you’re underpaid, but it might be that you’re not as productive, right? I mean, there are two sides potentially. Someone is always going to be below average if other people are above average. I mean, that’s just basic math. But you’re right, it is the fact that you are below the median is what makes you dissatisfied. I th
ink organizations worry about that. If I was in an organization, even if I think I am paying people fairly, I’m going to have dispersion in wages.


If that makes half of my employees unhappy, that’s a challenge. It doesn’t mean that’s a reason to not do it. But I would say that that’s the other interesting research that’s gone on on pay transparency. In general, I’m an advocate for pay transparency because I really think it helps to reduce discrimination and inequity. That’s what the laws are trying to do.

Tori Dunlap (34:43):

I feel like it’s the potential that nuance gets lost. Because if I’m working one job and I, I don’t know, make $50,000 a year and I see somebody else working another job and making $80,000 a year, I’m angry because I make $30,000 less. But maybe that person is the vice president or has different responsibilities or has a more direct line of sales people, for instance. I think about The Office, I think about the TV show, The Office, and Pam was probably making less than Jim was, because Jim directly brought in money for the company and also I think went to college, Pam didn’t. You think about those sorts of things.


I think it’s easy to get upset when you just see a number, and we always have to remember that there’s other things at play to get to that number. Now, sometimes it is bullshit. Sometimes Chad is making 15% more than you and you have more experience than he does or have brought in more money. Sometimes 100% that happens. I think the nuance though can sometimes leave when we just see numbers and that emotionally heightens us. I think it is important to keep in context of what are you doing versus what is this other person doing. These are two different jobs. They’re going to be compensated probably pretty differently.

Linda Babcock (36:06):

You would also get situations like Lilly Ledbetter in which she found that she was making a lot less than her colleague. Someone had slipped a note in her mailbox or something, and that she was the most productive one in her division. It led to a lawsuit and eventually legislation signed by President Barack Obama. Pay transparency does have that shining a bright light on inequity and discrimination.

Tori Dunlap (36:34):

One of the things I’ve heard and that I teach when you’re trying to talk about salaries or compensation, most people are uncomfortable telling you exactly what they make, which hopefully we live in a society eventually where that’s not the case and this is why I do the work that I do, and I’m sure you as well. What we found works is the over-under rule where you ask somebody, “Are you making over or under $80,000 a year?” And then they go, “Oh, I’m making over.” You go, “Okay, are you making over or under $100,000 a year?” And they go under. You have some good data there.


It’s not precise, but now you know, okay, they’re making anywhere from 80 to $100,000. Sometimes it’s even just that, that is enough information. If you’re only making 60, and again, you should be making the same as this person, that’s really helpful information to know. I was wondering if you have any other strategies that you’ve heard around starting to have these conversations or starting to make pay more transparent?

Linda Babcock (37:29):

Yeah, great. I love the over-under rule. That’s nice. I’ll add that to my repertoire if I can. I think that the other one that I think works very well, because as you say, it’s really uncomfortable talking about salary, many people just find that conversation maybe worse than going to the dentist. What you can do if you’re trying to gather information about what you ought to be earning, you can do something like say, “What do you think I should be earning?”


Because you’re not asking people what they earn, but you’re asking for all of the information that that person has about salaries in order to nail down an appropriate figure for you. That’s something that people typically feel very comfortable doing and ask around a lot of people.

Tori Dunlap (38:19):

We literally have that exact thing in our course where we say, okay, when you’re doing research, you’re asking previous mentors. You’re asking people you met at networking events. If I’m a marketer, I’m asking other marketers. I’m asking recruiter friends who hire marketers. That can be really helpful to start pulling from your network and figuring out, based on my skills and what you know about me and this role, and you can literally present the job description if you have it, what should I be compensated at based on what you know? Yeah, that’s definitely powerful.

Linda Babcock (38:52):

As you say, to make sure that you’re asking a diverse set of people.

Tori Dunlap (39:03):

Over the course of your career, what have you found the most surprising about work and the way we work? What is something you’ve changed your mind on or something that’s shifted your perspective?

Linda Babcock (39:20):

I would say the thing that most surprised me, and this is going to sound incredibly naive, but I’ll share it anyway, is that when I was much younger in my first job at a graduate school, I really didn’t think that there were gender differences or gender discrimination at work. I think that we have been really successful selling a myth that we are such an equal society, and I think boys and girls, young adults grow up believing this myth. I think I believed the myth, until I was like, huh, that’s interesting. What just happened here? I saw instances of men getting what they wanted in negotiation and women not negotiating, which is what prompted me to write my early work on negotiation.


I hadn’t thought much about how I was spending my time at work until I sat across the hall from one of my colleagues and I was running around from office to office all day in meetings. For a professor, actually meetings are not productive. They’re non-promotable, because what’s promotable is sitting in my office and doing my research. My colleague across the hall sat in his office all day and worked. I think that was really surprising to me when it finally dawned on me that we’re spending our time really differently.


He’s super smart, so he’s extremely productive, but he also spends his time in a way that’s going to maximize his research output and I was spending my time doing governance things for the university, resolving conflicts, helping students, all things that the university needs to do and are important, but I wasn’t getting my research done. It was just this revelation like, huh, that’s really interesting. Why is it I was tasked to do all these things? I actually went across the hall one day and I said, “Hey, George,” which is actually his real name, he lets me tell the story, I said, “Hey, George, have you ever been on the IRB?”


The IRB is this committee at the university. It’s really important. It governs the use of human subjects in research. Human subject research would shut down at the university if they didn’t have this committee, but it’s really time consuming. I, of course, was on the IRB, total non-promote task. I said, “George, have you ever been on the IRB?” He said, “No. No one’s ever asked me to be on it,” which was shocking. He also said, “And if someone asked me, I would say no.” I was like, okay, those are the two things like that are the problem here. No one is asking George, the man, they’re asking Linda. He’s going to say no and I said yes.No wonder I had this pile of non-promotable work on my plate. It took me a while to really realize that. Once I did, I knew that we were really onto something. My co-authors and I started doing research and really found that this is a pervasive problem and the sheer magnitude of it really surprised us.

Tori Dunlap (42:33):

Tell us about your new book, The No Club.

Linda Babcock (42:36):

It’s a labor of love. It documents our 12 year journey that the four authors had in our club, and the club was actually in response to this conversation I had with George, because I reached out to my colleagues and I was like, “Help! Help! I need an intervention. I need help getting control of my time.” I sent this message to some of my friends. We got together the next month and we met monthly for the past 12 years. We call it The No Club. Our mission was to get control of our time and try to focus more on the work that mattered most to organizations. That is the promotable work. In doing so, we learned a lot. We did research. We worked in companies to try to fix the problem.


We interviewed so many people. We drove people crazy talking about this. The book really documents our 12 year journey as a club, how we evolved as individual women, the research we found and the solutions we found that worked and the organizations that we changed. That’s kind of how the book came about, and we’re really proud of it. We think it will make an enormous difference to the lives of women and to organizations in their continuing search for finding solutions that work to increase equity.

Tori Dunlap (44:04):

We’ve discussed how non-promotable work is worse for women. I imagine it’s even worse if you’re a woman of color. Can you tell me more about that?

Linda Babcock (44:12):

Yeah, no, you’re exactly right. Many organizations engage in what sociologist Padilla calls cultural taxation. And that is you think about a governance committee at your organization, and these kind of governance committees, they could be DEI committees, they could be hiring committees, they could be safety committees, all of those things. These are typically non-promotable. Organizations often want to see representation of different kinds of people. They want diversity in these committee assignments. What do they do?


They overtax women and people of color. Because if you have say an organization with 30% women and you want it to be half women, you want your committee to be half women, of course, they’re going to be over staffing these committees. Even worse for women of color, they’re going to be even a smaller percentage. If I want representation from women of color, men of color, they’re going to be doing double duty on all of these committees. Of course, they’re not going
to get credit for it. They’re non-promotable. I’m really taxing these groups for their own underrepresentation, which is completely unfair.


We have to stop doing it because it is dragging down people’s careers, which is the last thing I know that all these organizations want to be doing. They’re really working at cross-purposes with their DEI initiatives. What we suggest is if there are committees that need a diversity of viewpoints, okay, then get diversity on those committees, but take other non-promotable tasks off the plates of those people who you’re taxing. They don’t need to take…

Tori Dunlap (46:05):

Or compensate them for being part of the committee.

Linda Babcock (46:07):

Exactly. They don’t need to also take notes in the meeting. They don’t need to organize the social event or fundraiser. To make sure that you’re not overloading some groups with this work. It’s not only extremely unfair, but it is not going to help in terms of seeing success in your DEI initiatives if you are loading people down with this work.

Tori Dunlap (46:31):

It also feels like we want people of color to be visible in these committees. And then in doing so, we have actually potentially hurt or punished their careers because they have even more labor that they have to do that’s uncompensated.

Linda Babcock (46:47):

That’s exactly right. They’re really stuck in this double bind where they’re asked more to do this service and they’re expected to say yes. They really have to say yes. We’re putting people in this very difficult position and we have to stop doing that.

Tori Dunlap (47:04):

This is something that I should have asked earlier. I just almost had the emotional reaction of feeling guilty for saying no, even within my body. Like you saying that, immediately I was like, well, I can’t say no though because it’s for the good of the team.

Linda Babcock (47:23):

No, Tori. You have internalized the expectations that other people have of you. It’s not real guilt. This is being forced upon you by our society, which is why we have to stop asking women because they get put in this no win position.

Tori Dunlap (47:42):

Totally. Linda, thank you so much for being on the show. In addition to your books, which we’ll link in the show notes, where can people find you?

Linda Babcock (47:49):

They can find me at thenoclub.com and Twitter @thenoclub.

Tori Dunlap (47:55):

Amazing. Thank you. Thanks for being here.

Linda Babcock (47:57):

It was great fun. Thank you for having me.

Tori Dunlap (48:00):

Thank you again to Linda. It was such an incredible episode. I think this one definitely deserves a second or third listen. Maybe listen now, come back in a month, come back in a year. We’ve had some incredible women speaking to the working experience of other women in the United States especially, and we love hearing how these episodes might be impacting you. We would love to hear from you as a listener, so you can send us a voicemail linked in our show notes and let us know if you’ve successfully negotiated a raise or stood up for yourself at work or just found a better opportunity.


We also talk more about that in the book, Financial Feminist. We have a whole chapter on earning and negotiating, finding a job that compensates you fairly, making more money, negotiating your pay. As always, the book is available. Also, check out Linda’s book, The No Club, wherever you get your books. We’ll also have links in our show notes, which yes, we have show notes full of resources for every single episode. Thank you again for joining us, Financial Feminist. We appreciate your support of the show as always, and we’ll catch you soon.


Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap. Produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and Administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alena Helzer, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning, and Ana Alexandra. Research
by Ariel Johnson. Audio Engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe, and theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound.


A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests episode show notes and our upcoming book also titled Financial Feminist, visit herfirst100k.com.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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