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April 11, 2023

Do Women Actually Negotiate Less than Men?

One question I hear a lot is: do women actually negotiate less frequently than men, and does this hurt us?

About 20 years ago, Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever brought the study of gender + negotiations to the forefront with their book Women Don’t Ask.  In this book, they introduced research showing men are 7x more likely to negotiate pay than women.  

My sense has been that shining the light on that gap was the first step, and that once women know about this, they tend to negotiate more.  Pew Research that just came out supports that suspicion:  Now men are only slightly more likely than women (32% vs. 28%) to negotiate for higher pay.

However – and this is where it gets interesting – women are more likely than men (38% vs. 31%) to say that after asking for higher pay, they were only given what had initially been offered AND women are more likely than men to say they didn’t feel comfortable asking for higher pay (42% vs. 33%) in the first place.

What does this mean?

I think it means we’re moving the ball down the field.  Women are negotiating at higher rates, but the VERY REAL fear of backlash – a risk women face in traditional career conversations at a much higher rate than men do – continues to exist.  My hunch is that the reason why we are less successful than men in career negotiations is because of backlash, and the Pew Research would support that suspicion.

The problem is, when women CAN’T ask, companies continue to lose this talent.  We are in a workplace that was built for white men, so it makes sense that we would need to negotiate more often.  Companies will be more likely to retain diverse talent if they are making structural changes AND ALSO equipping women to ask for what they need.  It’s in combining top-down and bottom-up solutions that we can really move forward.



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