The Real Reasons Why Women Earn Less Than Men at Work

Statistically, women do earn less money than men do, but when you compare women and men in the same jobs with the same skill sets, the wage disparity is lower than you'd think, according to PayScale

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Often, the gap between men's and women's salaries

As I've worked with clients over the years, I've discovered a few common denominators shared by those who ask for (and receive) more pay verses those who don't. Here are the most prominent ones:

1. Tolerance for Low Pay

Under-earners tend to have have a high tolerance for low pay. Some believe they are not worth the money. Some may think that if they take a job for more money, they will become a "slave" to the company, chained to a desk for long hours.

Often, these people will not bother to look for another job. They may think there is no other job out there that will pay them more. Some may blame their age, thinking that the fact they are older than 50 will hold them to a certain wage or that companies do not want older employees.

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The bottom line though, is that skills demand money -- not how you feel about it.

2. A Willingness to Work for Free

Under-earning is a pattern. This pattern often stems from low self-esteem and continues throughout a person's career path. This pattern can result in a person working for free when they should be demanding money -- for example, the consultant who gives her time away for free, thinking that good deeds will come back to her. Sadly, these people don't realize that their knowledge should cost money, not be doled out freely.

3. A 'Being Poor Is Cool' Mindset

It saddens me to say how often I've seen this mind set at work with my clients. Some wear their lack of money like a badge of honor.

These women fear being perceived as greedy or as taking what they don't deserve. They strongly believe that people with money are bad -- very bad. They have a mindset that money is the root of all evil. Somewhere along the line, they stopped looking at money as a tool and started perceiving money as something selfish. This is akin to the starving artist who won't "work" to gain notoriety.

4. A Tendency Toward Self-Sabotage

This is a subtle one, and it can happen many times over many years before a person notices it. Self-sabotage often manifests in the inability to look honestly at a company's solvency and have the guts to get out before it all falls apart. For some, this can trigger poor financial choices over and over again. Often, in these cases, there is a scapegoat: the company, the old boss, timing, or just bad luck. It's always everyone else's fault.

5. Relationship Codependence 

This is the classic case of thinking you have followed all the rules in life, have done all the right things, and should be protected -- and then it all backfires. Many women will put their dreams on hold for a relationship -- or worse, hope that their partner will be the financial plan and will always provide for them.

"Someday" is the motto for this client, but someday never comes. She stays in a relationship not out of love, but for survival.


I would be less than honest if I didn't say that skill set and earning power do play a part in the equation. They do, but they are not the total picture.

Money isn't the issue. Money is energy in motion. In fact, it's already been printed and is circulating right now. Under-earning stems from your thoughts; it reflects back at you. How you feel about money is often a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

Before you close this article and go read something else, I ask you to challenge yourself. Look at your ideas about money and carefully examine where your beliefs come from. Perhaps your worldview doesn't serve you any longer.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Elizabeth Lions is an executive career coach. You can learn more at