Women and negotiation pay gap Essay

The study on women and negotiation has brought to light the cognitive and behavioral differences based on gender dissonance. Even though women have time and again proved their mettle at the bargaining, they still battle marginalization and are left worse off at the negotiation table. Why would equally educated women and men with similar life experiences bring home very different paychecks? This thesis attempts to investigate into both, the internal (self-perception) and external (cultural & social) perception challenges faced by women while negotiating while examining fundamental differences between the genders and their approach towards similar situations globally. This thesis also explores social attitudes and perceptions (and stigmas) relating to gender identity and roles, consequent assumptions and inequalities it perpetuates - inequalities that are not only inherently wrong but also ineffectual and fiscally unsound. With the ever-complex interplay of changing social, cultural, economic and, geo-political landscape, the ability to take a stand and negotiate is no longer a luxury but a necessity. The paper uses narratives and findings of various experts in the field of negotiation and gender dissonance to explore the dramatic difference between men and women in their desire, approach and, propensity to negotiate for what they want and how it impacts women negotiators and how they can learn to be better at it.


It is imperative to understand that negotiation skills are key to success in every field of work and women will have to be assertive about their goals and interests while negotiating. In this paper we will examine the challenges faced by women in corporate world negotiations based on stereotypical gender differences and how they are redefining and challenging the deeply ingrained societal gender prejudices and emerging as successful negotiators on a global level (Shonk, 2019, para. 3). This topic is especially close to my heart as it directly affects me, a female student of Global Management and my career trajectory and economic well-being. The intercultural studies talk about the power of negotiation, its different styles and the need for inclusion of all members of society and this paper attempts to delve deeper and explore findings and solutions to this age-old discrimination between genders, what fuels it and how to manoeuvre around it successfully will ultimately assist me in reaching my full potential as a working professional.

“The American Association of University Women is releasing a new study that shows when men and women attend the same kind of college, pick the same major and accept the same kind of job, on average, the woman will still earn 82 cents to every dollar that a man earns” (Coleman, 2012, para. 2). A study done several years by Babcock & Laschever (2003) pointed out similar results when Carnegie Mellon students were interviewed to understand negotiation and gender interactions (as cited in Craver, 2018). Lack of negotiation directly impacts the pay package women command and pay disparities and lack of women in leadership roles in organizations worldwide reaffirms that lack of negotiation and its repercussions on women have transgressed borders, industries and time. Negligible Government initiatives, inherent gender biases and expectations come in way of women trying to fight for equal pay and position in top management even when several negotiation researchers have confirmed that the companies perform better during economically turbulent times when they have women on their boards while, public offices that have women in power tend to have more investments made towards public goods, like access to education and clean water (Harvard Kennedy School, 2019).

As per Hegewisch & Hartmann, experimental evidence confirms that people in general still discriminated against women in the workplace, especially more if they were to venture into traditionally male dominated areas of work. The stereotypical assumptions dictate, and almost revel in the fact that men, even when unprepared, get combative, assertive and, take pride in taking risks without being judged as demanding or difficult). They are anxious regarding the negative consequences they relate with competitive achievement, fearing that competitive success will alienate them from others. While men are fierce, relentless and focused on individual wins, women, instead, are mild, accommodating, and, more likely to seek a win-win outcome seeking to preserve relationships. (2019)

However, the most intriguing and rather shocking reason that surfaced is that women don’t like to negotiate their salaries. As a rule, they almost always accept what is on the table without any question or exploring the scope for a better offer. The hesitation to exploit the deal stems from the innate need to be accepted and liked. Dismal as is the situation, women are acutely aware of the fact that the employers are likely to view their demands, albeit valid and well-deserved, vis a vis the demands of their male counterparts, under unfavorable light. (Corbett & Hill, 2012). Day (2016) shared that the classic Wharton MBA male student negotiates a hard deal as opposed to Wharton MBA female students who either never negotiate or feel extremely apologetic, conscious and almost guilty when they do decide to negotiate. This contrast in approaches in negotiation is based on the fact that women don’t negotiate very often, and so it becomes “a big deal",” as opposed to the men, for whom it feels “normal” because they do it so often.


(Craver, 2018) Men and women negotiate as per the conventional societal roles and what is expected from each gender. The gender differences and behaviors attached with them are meshed in with the very DNA of the culture and individuals. The subtle nuances of masculinity and femininity and coinciding traits lay foundation for all the gender-interaction. Men are expected to be more aggressive, selfish, assertive, with individualistic winner take all mentality while women are expected to be docile, nurturing, empathetic and to ensure a win-win approach. Gender and its pre-conceived notions dictate the strategies around negotiation and how the opponent’s gender will play out in the whole bargain (Babcock and Laschever 2007). A common observation shows that even when minimally prepared, men believe they can “wing it” and get through successfully. While on the other hand, women no matter how well prepared, tend to feel anxious and unprepared.

The competitive differences can be attributed to the gender- based cultural differences that everyone goes through. The formative years and our definitions of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, what it is to be a man and how to be ladylike. Parents are likely to be more careful and stricter with their daughters than their sons. There have been countless incidents where women were named and shamed because they acted just the way their male peers did bringing to the surface the justified fear women tend to experience when they violate societal norms of “demure, communal female behaviour – and be punished for it” (Bowles, Babcock, and Lei 2006). Most boys are exposed to competitive situations at an early age and taught the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” during their formative years, while girls are exposed to indirect competition where one person’s success does not necessarily signify another’s failure (Gail Evans, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, 2000). Therefore, when these genders interact, men are automatically expected to be dominant, authoritative and speak for longer periods of time while women are supposed to be passive, apologetic and, submissive while employing a lot of disclaimers (Tannen, p.53 – 77, 1994). Women however, due to high emotional acumen and sensitivity can read more subtle tones and atmosphere of the discussion. They are perceptive and quite adept at reading non-verbal signs that are often missed out by their male counterparts. As a result, they are more likely to be in accordance to the implied messages conveyed by the opponents during the negotiations.

Men traditionally are emotionally restrained and use distributive bargaining skills that usually involves a single issue which one person gains at the expense of another, that is, a win/lose strategy based on opposed interests and short-term results, while women tend to be emotionally expressive and inclined towards integrative bargaining usually happens where an agreement can be found that works better for congruent interests better for both parties, that is, a win/win strategy” (Kinicki & Fugate, 2015) and is focused on forming long-term relationships based on sincerity and integrity. The principled negotiation technique used by women is focused on their natural strengths like ability to listen and collaborate. “Listening is really important because sometimes you think you know what the other party wants, but when you listen, you really hear what they want. That’s where you get to a position, a resolution, that works for both sides. Women are well- attuned to get the most beneficial and lasting results in negotiations and are naturally inclined to find a balance, to seek common grounds, to acknowledge and honour differences.

Challenging as it may be, negotiation in global business world is critical to one’s career development. Day stated that women should constantly and deliberately push themselves to negotiate harder and get comfortable with asking for more without any guilt or fear of being judged. Hollywood, ever since the Sony email leak in 2014, has generated numerous discussions on how well or poorly women negotiate. In her essay written for the online publication Lenny, Lawrence recalled feeling angry at herself for not negotiating for a higher package even after discovering the salaries of her male co-stars. “I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early",” she wrote. An Academy Award winner female actor, she deliberated the effect it will have on her image and how she will be perceived as greedy and selfish by her studio and industry, alike and forego the salary she rightfully deserved despite having access, power and the platform to do so. (A few years later, Lawrence hesitantly asked for a salary equal to that of her male-star and gets it without any fuss!)

“It makes me nuts when I hear someone like a female Wharton MBA say they are not good at negotiation…. Well, you don’t have to really be that good; you just have to do it.”–Beth Ann Day


Elizabeth Taylor was a great actress but even better negotiator. A trailblazing businesswoman in the entertainment industry — with her role in Cleopatra in 1963 she became the first woman to command a one-million-dollar salary. Another great example of negotiating and getting what demanded is when Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama negotiated her work timings, salary and schedule with her future boss: “This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. . . . I can work hard on a flexible schedule.”

Experience shows – and studies confirm – that formal peace agreements that include women are far more likely to last. UN institutions and its member states “to ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in all peace processes, including conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction”. From Syria to Afghanistan to New Zealand to the US, women are beginning to get more room at what was once strictly male dominated area.

An Israeli researcher, Itzhaki explained that women have unique skills to offer and that they are way more skilled at negotiations than their male counterparts. All the feminine traits that were, until recently, used against women in dog-eat-dog corporate world, are being recognized as critical and indispensable qualities to generate employee satisfaction and high morale. Men in business world are beginning to discover how incorporating the feminine strategies into negotiating styles will fetch better results than no room for bargaining negotiations.

Learning to negotiate effectively can be a crucial tool for women - from making their own health and reproductive choices to negotiating with their parents to attend school to negotiating business deals and paychecks. (Day & Gilliam) stated that practicing negotiation in small ways, in everyday life, builds both experience and confidence. Smallest and simplest of tasks such as returning apparel after the 30-day return period has gone past or to get a better hotel room when traveling or an upgrade to next class on an airline. It doesn’t have to be radical change. It just has to be there - a window to haggle, to bargain when opportunity presents itself. The studies show that even a small bonus or increment in the salary can translate into loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars over a woman’s career. It’s the small steps and the small victories that make way for behavioral and attitude changes. As Gilliam simply put “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. . Across the studies they examined, Jens Mazei and his team found that the gap between men and women’s outcomes narrowed as they gained negotiating experience. The results suggest that women tend to achieve more favorable economic outcomes the more time they spend at the negotiating table.

In A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating, 50 most successful female Americans were interviewed and it was identified that not seeing situations as opportunities to negotiate, not negotiating for themselves as they would for someone else and not being willing to say no were the three major mistakes that women make. Speaking up in the workplace can be intimidating, but it’s a practice that former First Lady Michelle Obama said everyone needs to adopt.

Another approach ever so beautifully captured by Journalism professor Michele Weldon nails the problem in an essay for al Jazeera. It involves invoking appeals logos, ethos and pathos of the potential employers while writing letters of recommendation for her female students and here’s an excerpt from it - "I respectfully request that you offer her the same salary as a male candidate with her qualifications. If your company already has this gender balanced practice, I applaud you for your fairness."

Major global corporations have become vocally supportive of pay parity. For instance, in an attempt to close the pay gap, PriceWaterhouseCoopers launched a training course on negotiation and gender and made it available online to all 15",000 of its female employees. Starbucks made a swift shift towards equal pay and extended it globally. Nike has gone ahead and committed to level set salaries and, Google honored ‘equal pay for equal work’ for all its employees.

Everything in life is a negotiation. The more women understand negotiation strategies and are able to use them effectively by leveraging their strengths, the more successful they are at piloting their companies’ complex systems, improving top management level presence and identifying personal barriers standing in the way of greater professional influence. It’s not that men are invulnerable or aren’t judged or thought of as being difficult or unlikeable when they make hard-line demands, but negotiation and Leadership tends to be far more challenging for women because of the persisting double standards. For any woman, becoming a self-assured, confident, and negotiator starts with learning how to steere gender variations, while staying true to their values. Attempting to negotiate can make anyone seem not so agreeable, Bowles repeatedly found. But it’s only women who subsequently suffer a penalty: people report that they would be less inclined to work with them, be it as colleagues, subordinates, or top management.

So, we see negotiation is neither bad nor good for either gender with repercussions and rewards on line for both yet it turns out to be usually a far more an uneasy and oft, perilous course for women than their male colleagues (Christine Exley & Muriel Niederle). However, it is worth observing that lack of negotiation doesn’t explain for the gender wage gap in its entirety. So instead of rather than condemning women for not driving a hard-enough agreement we could aim at changing the whole situation?

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