Women are less likely to negotiate than men

Economist Linda Babcock and researcher Sara Laschever have identified some reasons why women find it difficult and unpleasant to negotiate:

  • In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel "a great deal of apprehension" about negotiating.
  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • When asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked "winning a ballgame" and a "wrestling match," while women picked "going to the dentist."
  • Women are more pessimistic about how much is available when they do negotiate and so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.
  • 20 percent of adult women say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognise negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.

Women are more likely to negotiate when an employer explicitly says that pay is negotiable, according to one study (Andreas Leibbrandt of Monash University and John A. List from the University of Chicago).  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."

Is the situation different in New Zealand? NACEW asked focus groups of female students in their final year of study about their attitudes to negotiation. NACEW found the participants:

  • were more concerned about securing employment in the current job market than they were about pay equity
  • would rather secure a position first and then negotiate pay after some time in the job or when they applied for their next job having gained more experience
  • felt that talking about pay was a “taboo” subject.