Study Says Women Will Negotiate, if You Tell Them They Can

Alden Wicker
Posted

Gosh, women would earn what men earn if we would just buck up and negotiate!

OK, the reality is a little bit more complicated than that. But one of the reasons that we and other publications often point out when trying to parse the persistant wage gap is the fact (opinion?) that women are less likely than men to negotiate their pay.

The Atlantic reports that Researchers from Australia’s Monash University and the University of Chicago decided to find out if this was true, by following 2,500 U.S. job seekers applying for an administrative assistant position. What they discovered was surprising.

The working paper reported that although, overall, there was no difference in the likelihood that a male or female applicant would negotiate their salary, it actually was all about context:

  • When the employer explicitly says the salary is negotiable, women are more likely than men to negotiate.
  • When there is no mention that the salary is negotiable, men are more likely than women to negotiate. (Just to be clear, both sexes were more likely to negotiate in general when the job listing said the salary was negotiable; it’s just that the word “negotiable” prompted more women than men to actually negotiate.)
  • Even more interestingly, men are more likely to apply for a job in the first place when it doesn’t say the salary is negotiable.
  • Women are more willing to negotiate when it’s done over email, instead of face-to-face.
  • It even depends on the city. Women were more likely than men to negotiate in Atlanta (which makes sense, as young women there actually out-earn their male peers), Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and San Diego, while men were more likely than women to negotiate in Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington, DC.

“By merely adding the information that the wage is ‘negotiable’ we successfully reduced the gender gap in job applications by approximately 45%,” the researchers said, adding that this could have implications for public policy.

In other words, we have yet another tool to reduce the gender wage gap, in addition to the six initiatives we suggested this week.

If you’re ready to negotiate your salary, get started with our Negotiating 101 guide.

  • Emily N.

    I’d agree with these findings. Last year, my company offered a session on gender differences in communications led by our VP of HR, who specifically mentioned that she doesn’t see as many women negotiating their salaries. Since she was clear that it was an option, when I was recently offered a promotion, I felt confident negotiating my new salary—and it worked! 

    • Engchik

      Awesome Emily! Im hopefully getting hired where I am at the end of the year (im a pharma comms writer), and so, do you just say, when they make an offer, “I’d like to discuss this” or “I’d like to negotiatemy salary” I’ve said before, i was hoping for more in the past, and most HR ppl said that’s all we are offering, so it seems like a closed door. Thoughts?