New research confirms that it pays to be a nasty woman

Worth it.
Worth it.
Image: Reuters/Chris Keane
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The phrase “nasty woman,” coined by Donald Trump during the US presidential election, has become a clarion call for feminists everywhere.

After the third presidential debate, rival Hillary Clinton and her surrogates latched onto the term gleefully, claiming it as a badge of honor. “Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women vote,” Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren told a crowd the day after the debate.

Now there’s scientific proof that nastiness pays. A new study by business and management professors in the Netherlands and Israel suggests that nasty women—i.e. women who are dominant and disagreeable—are better paid than nicer ones.

The study, published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Management, finds that women who express their expectations and do not back down from demands earn more income than women who tend to acquiesce to others. Men, regardless of demeanor, earn even higher wages than both types of women.

The findings come from a survey of 375 randomly selected men and women at a Dutch electronics company. Salaries and other details related to the employees’ performance and status were collected from questionnaires and company data. To measure traits like “dominance” and “agreeableness,” researchers from Tel Aviv University, University of Haifa, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands asked subjects to rate from one to five how much they agreed with statements like: “When I’m in a group of people, I’m often the one who speaks on behalf of the group” or “Some people say that they have never seen me angry.”

Characteristics like “dominant” and “agreeable” were used to describe men and women considered to be ”status-striving,” i.e. confident, aggressive, competitive, talkative, and enthusiastic. Agreeable people, by contrast, were described as cooperative, sympathetic, and trusting, and prioritized maintaining good relationships with peers over financial rewards or a higher rank.

Dominant men, the researchers found, also made more than “conciliatory” men. The salaries, in real terms:

Not only did “agreeable” and “non-dominant” women earn less; they felt they earned beyond what they contributed to the company. “This blew our minds,” said Sharon Toker, management professor at Tel Aviv University and co-author of the report. The data show these women earn “far less than what they deserve,” she said. But they rationalize the situation, making it “less likely that they will make appropriate demands for equal pay.”

Last month, the World Economic Forum suggested it might take 170 years to close the pay gap between men and women, and that the gap had widened over the last four years, according to its survey of wages in more than 100 countries. Women were found to earn roughly 50% of what men earn on average. In the US, women earn about $0.79 for every dollar a man makes.

Clearly, more women need to harness their inner nastiness.