The gender psychology of fair pay and haggling

The Washington Post has an article on a recent study suggesting that the pay disparity between men and women might be explained by the fact that women don’t ask for pay rises as much as men, and it may be because they’re worried about being seen as pushy and difficult.

Crucially, the research also indicates that women’s worries are accurate, especially where men are concerned.

The study, available online as a pdf file, was led by management researcher Prof Hannah Bowles.

It asked several groups of participants to evaluate candidates who were applying for a job, either from a transcript of their interview or from video tape.

Women marked down all candidates who tried to negotiate for a higher salary in their interview. So did men, but the effect was almost twice as strong for women who asked for more money than for men who did the same.

In a second experiment, participants were asked to go through a fake interview situation themselves.

Women were much less likely than men to ask for a higher salary if they thought a man was going to make the decision. When a woman was supposedly making the decision to employ, there was no difference between the sexes.

Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, this study found that women’s reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more — the perception was that women who asked for more were “less nice”.

“What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,” Bowles said. “They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.”

Link to WashPost article ‘Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling’.
pdf of research paper.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 1, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    This is fascinating. Thanks. I live in DC but don’t have the time or inclination to read the Post daily.
    This blog is great. I do have one suggestion. Why not add the ability to e-mail a post like so many blogs & Web pages have? I do share a fair number of your entries and this would simplify the process greatly.


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