Gender & Negotiation
Hannah Riley Bowles is a well-known scholar in the field of negotiation and gender. She has written and presented extensively on the contextual and psychological "double bind" women experience as they negotiate for better pay in the workplace. Not without controversy, her insights into strategies women can use to counteract the biases they encounter are gaining traction in the field. The Council has compiled an annotated collection of her research below.
Title: How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer
The ability to successfully negotiate for higher pay is a coveted skill. For women, it could be a decisive element in reducing the pay gap. Yet past research shows that women pay a higher price for initiating salary negotiations than men. Namely, women who initiate negotiations are perceived as not nice or overly demanding, the result of which could potentially be a costly, long-term social price. When women are stuck in such a double-bind, the authors of this article call that no-win situation “social outcomes.”
This paper, based on the results of two separate experiments, aims to uncover negative social outcomes imposed on women when they negotiate salary, and potential strategies to mitigate these effects and improve women’s effectiveness. Further, the authors test their hypothesis that communication styles closely matching gender stereotypes – e.g., woman as organization/relationship-oriented (as opposed to individual/self-oriented), caring, and cooperative – increase the likelihood that women’s “social outcomes” would improve. In both experiments, participants (519 individuals in total) were randomized into different experimental conditions wherein subjects observed men and women negotiating for higher salaries.
In Study 1, negotiators requested the increase using one of two styles: organization/relationship-oriented (indicating one's loyalty and desire to support the company) or outside offer (you should give me more money because another company has made me a better offer). The authors found that using the organization/relationship-oriented, caring language helped women negotiators’ manage their niceness image, hence, improving their social outcomes - but not the actual negotiation outcomes. Presenting the outside offer message legitimized the negotiators’ requests and improved their negotiation outcomes, but not their social outcomes – even when the outside offer message was combined with the organizational/relational language. However, neither strategy, separately or in combination, helped the overall social or negotiation outcomes for women.
In Study 2, the use of what the authors call the “relational accounts” scripts – basically, a combination of the relational-cooperative script with a hint of legitimacy of the request (e.g., recommendation by her supervisor) – improved women negotiators’ social and negotiation outcomes. In closing, the authors emphasize that there are real social and financial risks that women face when initiating compensation negotiations but that this dilemma need not be an inescapable one. Acknowledging that their approach may be controversial or even offensive for some, they present it as a pragmatic, strategic approach supported by empirical data.
How do women in leadership roles claim and legitimize their authority in the business world? That question is the starting point of this study, which analyzed semi-structured interviews of 50 female executives from major corporations and entrepreneurial businesses. Through telling their career stories, the executives shared the high and low points, significant barriers, critical events, etc.— and explained their success. Bowles found that the participants utilized two methods to claim their top leadership positions: navigation and pioneering. Navigation is the more typical path, climbing the corporate ladder competitively, following all the rules and advocating for oneself. Pioneering, on the other hand, entails going above and beyond one's current projects, cultivating visions for new directions, and gaining access to people who can help them realize those visions. Despite their apparent success, the study subjects identified poor access to the old boy network and limited organizational leadership opportunities for women as problematic, though not insurmountable. In conclusion, the author asserts that these findings are not “new” in the arena of leadership development per se. At the same time, in-depth investigations like this about the gendered experience of ascending to and staying in top corporate leadership positions can yield new knowledge about what it takes for women to make it in the world of the high-power business.
This article reviews psychological theories and research on gender in negotiation. In earlier research, gender was thought to operate in negotiation through stereotypes about sex roles. That is, men were expected to be assertive and agentic competitors, while women were assumed to be group-oriented and communal cooperators. Over more than three decades of research, a more nuanced picture has emerged. Two keys points to note: first, certain contexts enhance women’s negotiating skills – e.g., when negotiation processes are unambiguous, transparently communicate information on compensation standards, raise awareness of gender stereotypes, etc.; and second, though negotiation is actively practiced by men, women are good negotiators on behalf of others. The author concludes the article with implications and recommendations for practice.
Bowles and Gelfand present three experimental studies on status-based bias in assessing workplace deviance. Scholars have known that when lower-status individuals commit deviant actions, they are received more harshly compared to individuals of higher-status. These studies investigate whether the status of evaluators plays a role in assessment of deviant acts in the workplace context. Participants included a total of 357 women and 257 men.
This article presents the results of experiments the authors conducted on gender dynamics and interactions between negotiators and their evaluators. Focusing on two aspects of negotiation – degree and manner of persistence – two experimental studies investigate the commonly held sex-stereotypic view of women as poor negotiators, i.e., leaning toward accommodation and compromise. Analysis of male-female negotiator/evaluator pairs (“naysayers”) revealed that women persisted more with male naysayers than with female naysayers, and in a way that challenged gender-based stereotypes. High performance female negotiators employed varying strategies of the manner and degree of persistence. The authors suggest this means that women tend to respond to situational cues and strategically engage in negotiations fluidly, depending on who their negotiators are.
The researchers explored four types of negotiation pursued by female workers: (1) simple asking (with no outside offer), (2) simple asking with outside offer, (3) cooperative outside offer – emphasizing the negotiator’s communal, relationship-valuing orientation, and (4) competitive outside offer – emphasizing the negotiator’s willingness to leave if her request is not met. Analysis focused on participants’ perceptions of the negotiator’s niceness, demandingness, and willingness to work. Key findings of the study include: (1) after negotiation, the perception of niceness decreased and demandingness increased; (2) the request of negotiators were perceived as more legitimate when the outside offer claim was made; (3) negotiators who used the cooperative outside offer were seen as less demanding; and (4) when the negotiation was initiated, the perception of their willingness to work, regardless of the cooperative or competitive nature of their request, decreased. While the experiments do not offer solutions for eliminating social risks of negotiating, they do offer a different way of framing the request through socially and sex-stereotype congruent communication styles.
The typical understanding of workplace negotiations do not acknowledge a connection with the dynamics of intra-household gender relations. This article integrates psychological, economics and sociological academic literature to suggest that workplace negotiations exist on two levels: Level One, employer-employee level, and Level Two, traditional gender roles and how they impact household labor. In Level One, the authors assert, pre-existing gender stereotypes and expectations of socially acceptable behavior for men and women make it difficult for women to negotiate successfully. Women “pay” more social cost for negotiating, tend to expect low wages and choose not to negotiate hard for better pay. In Level Two, household labor is unequally distributed with women still doing more housework than men. Earning power differentials between the sexes may lead to women perpetually performing higher proportion of housework and not thriving as a professional. Likewise, because men make more money, they put more time and energy into paid work whereas women put more into family. The authors contend that social norms are also important in that they make an impact on how gender roles influence job-related negotiations. The authors conclude the article by offering tips on creating maximal opportunities for women, given the limiting social context and encourage the readers to seek creative, win-win situations.
Author(s): Bowles, Hannah Riley; McGinn, Kathleen L.
Name: The Academy of Management Annals (2008), Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 99-132
Document available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19416520802211453
Bowles and McGinn review literature on gender and job negotiations. Early research used a simplistic analysis in which gender was understood to play stable role in negotiation (much like personality traits) and was often linked to sex-stereotypical assumptions. That is, men were expected to be assertive and agentic competitors and women, group-oriented and communal cooperators. Subsequent research over more than three decades has contributed much more nuanced understanding about how men and women negotiate. Namely, many gender-related differences in negotiation are not “stable” but can be explained by situational factors. Women in particular apply fluid negotiation styles and respond to different contexts. For example, when negotiation is less ambiguous, women’s negotiation outcomes improve significantly. Women also tend to negotiate harder against male negotiating partners. The authors include literature on negotiations that take place in the home—e.g., women engaging in more household labor relative to men—and offer new directions for future research.
Conventional wisdom holds that “it pays to ask” – that is, under most circumstances, asking for what you want is better than remaining silent. But is that really true? This study looks at how men and women who initiate pay negotiations are evaluated in terms of niceness and demandingness. The findings show that initiating women are punished socially more than men and others consider them to be not nice and/or too demanding. They also studied the interaction between the gender of evaluators and evaluees. Key findings of the study are: (1) more women were punished than men for asking for higher salary; (2) male evaluators penalized female evaluees more than male evaluees; (3) female evaluators penalized all candidates for initiating negotiations even-handedly; (4) women were less keen on negotiating with male evaluators. The authors conclude the article with notes on the study’s limitations and new directions for future research.
While on the whole men appear to be better at pay negotiations, the authors assert that certain contextual situations impact women’s ability to negotiate successfully. Through analysis of field and lab experiments, the authors link women’s poor performance to ambiguous economic structure embedded in the negotiating process. In other words, when women do not have a clear understanding of issues such as the bargaining range or standards for agreement, it debilitates their chances of negotiating successfully. When this ambiguity is removed or significantly reduced, women have better outcomes and are able to assume positions in true competition with men. The authors conclude the article with a call for broadly expanding this area of research, particularly the situational variables that enhance women’s negotiation outcomes.
The subject of this report is the field of gender and negotiation research itself. Over time, empirical research in this area has largely characterized negotiation as a “man’s game,” and men as better negotiators than women. Part of the problem, according to the authors, lies in the research community’s focus on articulating women’s deficiencies as well as favoring a particular negotiation paradigm which emphasizes materialistic gains – as opposed to, for example, relational gains – as markers of performance. The authors recommend potential future research that reframes the problem to focus on opportunities instead of deficiencies and encourage using alternative negotiation paradigms and relational gains as markers of success.
This excerpts a Katie Couric interview with academic experts Linda Babcock and Hanna Riley Bowles, and corporate leaders Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook) and Christine Day (CEO Lululemon). The four talk recount how women are socialized from childhood to negotiate better for others than for themselves, including being rewarded more for attention to community/team-work or when they give credit to others. To be effective workplace communicators and negotiators, the guests recommend that women claim credit for their good work and tone down negative emotions – particularly, anger and frustration. Especially when making requests, they advise women to use language based on "we need," i.e., organization-oriented, rather than "I need." According to this hypothesis, such linguistic shifts are likely to be more effective and to offset the perception that women in the midst of negotiation are too “aggressive” or “pushy.”