Mind the Gap

Want equal pay? Consider team size when negotiating

A miniature man and a miniature woman standing on a pile of bills.When it comes to pay, women typically earn about 80% of what their male counterparts earn (though that statistic varies by race/ethnicity and how it’s measured). Haas Prof. Laura Kray investigates the underpinnings of gender inequality, from implicit bias to lack of transparency to inflexible mindsets, and she’s uncovered a new culprit: team size.

Kray and Margaret Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow sponsored by Haas’ Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, analyzed the results of a Haas alumni survey of 2,000 full-time professionals who graduated between 1994 and 2014. Men averaged 10 direct reports while women averaged nearly 8. And team size did indeed account for a portion of the pay gap—beyond other individual job characteristics.

Further research revealed that people were inclined to associate stereotypically male attributes (e.g., assertive, forceful, demanding) with leaders of larger teams, and stereotypically feminine attributes (e.g., patient, polite, kind) with leaders of smaller teams.

Kray advises job negotiators to scrutinize not only their salary and bonuses but also how many direct reports they’ll be managing.

“Don’t overlook team size as a factor that could make a difference in your paycheck, especially in the long run,” she says.