The field of negotiation and gender embodies over 35 years of research from various academic disciplines. On this page, the Council presents a small annotated collection of different perspectives on gender and negotiation.
Title: Determinants and Consequences of Salary Negotiations by Male and Female MBA Graduates
Gerhart and Rynes explored how structural (e.g., having different job offers available) and personal (e.g., expectations, personality characteristics, behaviors, etc.) factors impact by gender the probability of people engaging in salary negotiations at all, and the payoffs when they do. The authors recruited 205 graduating and recently graduated MBA students and surveyed their negotiating behavior with employers and related salary outcomes. Contrary to the commonly-held belief that women are poor negotiators, the researchers found that female MBA graduates negotiated just as hard as their male counterparts given the same set of opportunities. Likewise, both genders improved their outcomes when they engaged in negotiation. Women experienced lower returns from their negotiation attempts, and a significant starting salary differential compared to men. Underscoring that starting salary has a lasting impact on future earnings, the authors suggest that these initial differentials may play a crucial role for the overall pay gap. The authors argue that structural and environmental factors may be more significant than personal factors in women’s ability to negotiate successfully and conclude the article with directions for future research.
Researchers in this field experiment recruited 2,500 online job applicants across nine metropolitan U.S. cities and observed their negotiation behavior. Applicants were exposed to two conditions: in one job description, there was a statement stating that wages were negotiable, and in the other, there was no such statement. The authors found that women negotiated just as hard—if not harder—as male candidates when there was an explicit statement about wages being negotiable. However, when there was no statement about wages being negotiable, men were more likely to negotiate than women. In other words, women seemed to prefer settings where the “rules of wage determination” were unambiguous—that is, they negotiated competitively when they knew whether they were expected to negotiate or not. Similar to previous studies’ findings, when the rules of engagement and negotiation settings were clear, women negotiated as hard as men.
Craver studied and collected data from 640 male and female law students enrolled in a legal negotiation course, which he has taught for sixteen years. Interested in their performance outcomes and negotiation styles, he found little statistical difference between men and women negotiators by performance. He did, however, find differences in self-efficacy and expectations for successful outcomes: men tended to be more confident, and women more doubtful about their own capabilities. There were also stylistic differences: men were often “win-lose” negotiators who communicated with more dominant nonverbal behavioral cues (e.g., staring, loud voices); women, on the other hand, hued closer to a “win-win” negotiation style, seeking harmony and cooperation. The author notes that, although many assume there are gender-based stereotypes in negotiations, differences between the sexes often dissipate when external conditions are leveled. In addition, he warns of gender-based stereotypes that lead to covert discrimination against female attorneys when, for example, they seek opportunities in legal practices requiring negotiation skills.
This study investigated the role of pay expectations and how they differed between men and women, an area acknowledged by many scholars as critical to explaining the gender pay gap. The authors surveyed 435 undergraduate students and asked about their expectations on future salaries (at the beginning and at the peak of their careers), intended career paths, perceptions of self-esteem and self-efficacy. The study found that women expected to be paid less than men regardless of their intended career paths. Both men and women expected to be paid less when pursuing traditionally female-dominated careers, compared to male-dominated ones. Additionally, although self-esteem did not impact the relationship between gender and pay expectations, a high sense of self-efficacy—one’s sense of competence—was associated with an increase women’s entry-level pay expectations, while it was associated with a decrease in men’s peak-career pay expectations. The authors conclude the article with notes on further investigating the relationship between self-efficacy and pay expectations.
In this study, the authors were interested in the role of automatic, stereotypic notions about wealth and gender and how they impact people’s assessment of others’ salaries. Based on the results of four separate lab and field experiments, the authors found that salary estimations were based on participants’ stereotyped notions about men and women’s earning power and wealth. Specifically, they found that both male and female research participants awarded higher salaries to hypothetical male employees when asked to compare them with equally competent hypothetical female employees. In addition, male participants awarded significantly higher salaries to male employees compared to female participants. Study participants reported that they were aware of the gender pay gap but did not believe that this knowledge influenced their assessment. The authors argue that such responses operate outside of one’s conscious awareness and are induced by socially constructed, stereotypic views about gender and money. They also assert that these views are learned over time and socialize people into perceiving men as the holder of money and automatically associating them with wealth—e.g., breadwinners, high-occupational status, etc. This socialization can have significant impact in the workplace where individuals, largely unaware of their reliance on gender stereotypes, decide salaries and other forms of compensation as well as assess themselves and each other. These stereotypes may thus perpetuate the gender pay gap.
Solnick ran an experiment using the “ultimatum game” with two conditions. The ultimatum game is a bargaining game in which one player proposes a fixed sum of money for both parties, and the second player has the option of either accepting the proposal (both players get equally divided sum) or rejecting it (no one gains). For this experiment, in one condition, the gender of players was unknown, and in the other, the gender of players was known. The author found that when the gender of the players was unknown, there was no statistical difference on average offers made. However, when the gender was known, men received higher offers, especially from female participants, and both men and women research participants made lower offers to female players. The author concludes the article with the suggestion that gender pay gaps may be due to such bargaining differences, as the gender of the employee triggers different sets of acceptable salary ranges from the perspective of employers.
In this study, the authors sought to understand the process of negotiation based on the presumption that the outcomes of negotiation tend to be more favorable for men than women. Business students (238 participants in total) were asked to review a hypothetical job description. They were to apply and negotiate salary, then complete a survey about the recruitment process. Various questions assessed participants’ pay expectations, negotiation strategies, expected outcomes, etc. The authors found that, similar to previous studies, even when the perceptions of competence were similar between men and women, men consistently asked for higher salaries than did women. Women tended to use more traditional self-promotion strategies—e.g., emphasizing education, experience or motivation— whereas men tended to use more active negotiation tactics—e.g., asking for more or for the highest salary possible and not accepting the first offer. The authors surmise that men and women’s different expectations, aspirations, and negotiation skills partially explain the differences in salary expectations and highlight the close association between expectations and actual outcomes of negotiation.
This study looked at the impact of goals, self-efficacy, and one’s sense of control on negotiation outcomes by gender. The authors recruited 60 MBA students and offered a two-stage training program designed to enhance negotiation skills, as well as measure negotiation outcomes, self-efficacy, and sense of control, among other variables. In the first stage, participants were provided information about negotiation tactics, which they then role-played with a “personnel director” who was part of the experiment team. During the second phase, the same participants were exposed to one of two supplemental trainings: one focused on goal-setting techniques, while the other honed in on self-management to improve participants’ sense of self-efficacy. Again, participants role-played based on their new skills. Key findings: (1) even with the tactical knowledge training, women negotiated lower salaries compared to men; (2) men and women appeared to have similar levels of self-efficacy and perceived control, but men had higher salary aspirations; (3) women’s outcomes improved significantly after undergoing self-management training, but not goal-setting training. In closing, the authors suggest that content-only training on technical aspects of negotiation is not sufficient to enhance women’s negotiation performance. Instead, they advocate further investigation of the role cognitive elements—such as one’s sense of self-efficacy—could play in reducing the pay gap.
Greenberger and Steinberg found evidence of gender-biased differences in opportunities and socialization in the labor force as early as high school. Analyzing survey data from 3,101 suburban 10th and 11th graders who were surveyed on their first and subsequent job experiences, the findings included: (1) adolescents’ jobs are highly sex-segregated; (2) girls earn lower hourly wages and work fewer hours than boys; and (3) male-dominated jobs pay better than female-dominated jobs. Highlighting the similarities between the economic and occupational structure of the labor force for both adults and adolescents, the authors conclude that studying these trends of young workers is important because they may impact how young people internalize the world of work. That is, through early exposure to the labor force during their formative years, they may accept without question that wages are differently set for male and female adult workers, which in turn, could influence their future job-related negotiations.
Responding to Bowles and Babcock’s 2013 study, Pynchon expresses frustration over the implication of the researchers’ “relational accounts”—a combination of the relational-cooperative script with a hint of legitimacy of the request (e.g., recommendation by her supervisor) advocated by the researchers. Pynchon opposes such strategies as she believes that they perpetuate gender stereotypes and implies that abiding by those gender prescriptions or cultural expectations—even if strategically exercised—forbid women from becoming true leaders, trapping women in the “the compliant girl” vs. “wonder woman” binary.
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