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It Pays to Be an Assertive Woman in the Workplace, New Study Says

According to a recent study, women who are assertive in the workplace are compensated more than their "nice" counterparts. But even the most dominant women are still paid less than the least assertive men.
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Women in the workplace are often told we are hurting our own authority by apologizing all the time. So many "sorry's", that we now have email plugins to make sure we don't drop them into an otherwise assertive correspondence accidentally.

A new study published in The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology suggests assertiveness in the workplace is beneficial for women, as researchers found that assertive, dominant women were generally compensated better than their less assertive counterparts.


The study surveyed 375 men and women working at various departments of a Dutch electronics company. They found the results between men and women were mostly the same—assertive employees, regardless of gender, were compensated more, whereas agreeable employees were compensated less. Women who were agreeable and "nice" had lower salaries than anyone.But most importantly—women are still paid less than they should be, regardless of how agreeable or assertive they are at work.

Read More: Two-Thirds of Young Women Are Sexually Harassed at Work

Speaking to Broadly, author of the study Dr. Renee De Reuver says the results were both surprising and also somewhat expected. "It was surprising because we did not observe a backlash effect on dominant women who do not conform to gender stereotypes," she says. "In fact, we found that the more dominant a woman is at work, the less likely she is to be status-detracted."

dominant women were still found to earn less than even the most agreeable men.

Researchers also weren't surprised that dominant employees of any gender receive more compensation for their work. "We found a similar pattern among all employees," De Reuver tells us. "But alarmingly, dominant women were still found to earn less than even the most agreeable men." So while still considered effective employees, dominant women don't see as much benefit when it comes to compensation.

The researchers also found that agreeable women tend to believe they are compensated more than they should be even though they get paid the least. "That really amazed us," De Reuver says. The researchers believe this could be because less assertive women make fewer demands for equal pay, suggesting that these women may value a harmonious workplace over the need to receive fair compensation.

While women still don't receive equal pay, the new research suggests that change could be underfoot with how we typically view traditionally male and female qualities. "Gender stereotypes are persistent and difficult to change. Some people still cling to the idea that some qualities are exclusively male and exclusively female," Reuver says.

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This study is perhaps the most recent in research suggesting women just aren't getting what they deserve at work. In September, one study found that women still don't receive raises despite asking for them. Another suggested that as women enter male dominated fields, average pay drops.