What can businesses do to help?

Employers play an important role in improving outcomes for women in negotiation, and women’s overall pay and employment equity. 

As discussed here, there is a persistent gender pay gap between women and men in employment.  We recommend that employers investigate NACEW’s 'Play Fair' gender pay and employment equity guides for advice on how businesses can address any gender inequities in their workplace.

Here are three things that businesses can specifically do in regards to negotiation:

Provide more information about expected pay ranges

In a 2005 study, Hannah Riley Bowles, Linda Babcock and Kathleen McGinn found that gender doesn’t always matter in negotiation.  It depends on the situation.  In negotiation situations where there is more information and less uncertainty about how much money to expect as well as the appropriate norms for negotiation, there was no difference in the average salaries negotiated by male and female MBA graduates.

Make it clear upfront that the salary is negotiable

In one study, Andreas Leibbrandt of Monash University and John A. List from the University of Chicago found that women are more likely to negotiate when an employer explicitly says that pay is negotiable.  Men, on the other hand, are more likely to negotiate when the employer does not directly state that they can negotiate. Specifically, men negotiated more often when they were told only that: "The position pays $17.60 an hour."  In contrast, women were more likely to negotiate when they were told that: "The position pays $17.60 per hour, but the applicant can negotiate a higher wage," or "The position pays $17.60 per hour/negotiable."

Allow negotiation in a written form

The above study also found that women are less likely to negotiate face-to-face.  Gender differences in negotiation were smaller when negotiations happened in an impersonal context such as via email.