Despite some big policy changes in a few state legislaturesand a handful of major corporations in recent months, women are still paid significantly less in 2018 than their male counterparts.

In their most recent comprehensive study that surveyed more than 2 million people over the last two years, PayScale (the leader in compensation data analysis and friend of The Swing Shift) found that in 2018, women earn 77.9 cents for every dollar earned by men, which represents only a slight improvement from 2016 when the ratio was 76.3 cents for every dollar.

The reasons behind this stubborn gender pay gap have received much attention lately and are indeed multifaceted, including a higher representation of women who pause their careers to become caregivers and an underrepresentation of women in executive roles.

However, its existence and persistence are all too real.

The cumulative effect of not asking

Men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise, according to economist Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University in an interview on NPR. The reasons why are as complicated and deep-seated as the individual women themselves. While certainly not all women are negotiation-averse, there are some overarching trends (backed up by loads of data) that many women can relate to.

Some women, particularly those who are returning to work after a break or are in low- or mid-level positions, tend to undervalue their worth and their contribution, thinking they need to put in more time or more effort before they can ask for a raise. For others, it’s the real and perceived fear of blowback from managers. If I ask for what I want, will I be punished or pigeon-holed as too “demanding,” “bossy” or “difficult to work with?” Will it negatively affect my career down the road?

However, when a woman does not regularly and systematically ask for raises