Women and men are equally effective at wage negotiations
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Who’s better at negotiating in a wage bargaining situation,men or women? Is the pay gap between the genders because men are better at it?Some interesting research sought to find the answer.
What the researchers say: “Some attribute the pay gap to perceived gender differences in wage contract negotiations,” says the lead author, “or, to a belief that women undermine their own bargaining position by extending too much trust to others in negotiations. In other words, some perceive men as more effective negotiators than women and assign this as a factor to explain the wage gap, in whole or in part.”
The findings from the study suggest that these notions are false.The research appeared in the Journal of Behavioral Public Administration.
This is the first study to look at gender differences in trustworthiness and perceptions of benevolence in the context of hierarchical negotiations, such as wage agreements. And it finds that women and men reach very similar outcomes in negotiations conducted in similar contexts. In the paper, the authors apply their findings to the public administration sector, though it is relevant to industries across the board.
“Our findings suggest that the gender stereotypes that lead to the perception that men may negotiate better wage contracts than women are misleading, and that individual behavior in hierarchical negotiation settings—like between a boss and employee—is more likely affected by the context of the negotiation,than by gender differences,” say the researchers.
The authors write: “...our research report shows how institution-free environments (like experiments)—which do not exist in the real world—provide a baseline to measure how institutions shape the behavior of real public workers in real agencies.”
The researchers conducted experiments in which people randomly assigned to the role of principal (boss) and agent (employee) negotiated a wage labor agreement that determined the payment each received for their participation. Participants were also administered surveys to assess perceptions of generosity, trust,trustworthiness, and negotiation strategies.
An analysis of the data reveals that:
- Women do not obtain negotiated outcomes that are significantly different from men, indicating that persistent wage differences between women and men are not due to differences in the contracts negotiated.
- Women are not necessarily more generous than men and are equally motivated toward self-interested behavior in economic incentives.
- Women are no more or less trusting than men of their superiors or subordinates.
- Women are more likely to be extended trust, and the likelihood that women extend trust to men is not significantly different from that of men.
So, what? This is an important bit of myth-dispelling. The only problem I have with study, which the researchers themselves acknowledge, it is that the laboratory where the study took place is itself a context. A woman can go into it knowing that nothing real is at risk. In this situation she can buck societal, cultural and context-related expectations which otherwise might result in her “pulling her punches.”
Nevertheless, it is a great beginning, and forms the basis for further studies.
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