Women get a better salary deal when negotiating for someone else

29 Sep

Women will back down in salary negotiations and settle for much less than they deserve because they fear they’ll give off the wrong impression if they come across as too assertive and independent. In other words, they conform to stereotypical gender expectations, according to research from Colombia Business School.

It’s not that women can’t bargain as well as men in salary negotiations, or set their sights lower. It’s that they fear a “social backlash” when negotiating for themselves, according to the report. However, women are much more effective at negotiating when doing it on behalf of someone else, such as for the family or the team. This is “a context where assertive negotiation reads as caring and therefore consistent with the feminine gender role”, said the report.

Professor Michael Morris, Chavkin-Chang professor of leadership at Colombia Business School, said: “The research has uncovered a missing link in the effect of gender on negotiations. Though women seemingly fare worse than men in most distributive negotiations, they are not less capable bargainers. Rather, women are savvy impression managers who consciously negotiate gender role expectations.”

He suggests that rather than training women to be more assertive negotiators, they should be coached in a way of negotiating that is framed as bargaining on behalf of the team. He said that gender pay inequality would be improved if women were not obliged to negotiate their salaries, and instead for salaries and pay rises to be awarded by the organisation on the basis of objective performance criteria.


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