Probably because I am a woman, I watch studies about women and success in the workplace with great interest. Jennifer Middlin sent me an interesting piece from the Washington Post that refutes some of the commonly held beliefs about women and salary negotiation: Salary, Gender, and the Social Cost of Haggling. Commonly, women are thought of as less aggressive than men and less likely to negotiate for more compensation. It turns out, salary negotiation by women is viewed less positively than salary negotiation by men.

Linda C. Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and Hannah Riley Bowles, who studies the psychology of organizations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, “found that women’s reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more — the perception was that women who asked for more were ‘less nice’.”

“In a final set of studies, Bowles’s team had 367 volunteers play the role of job candidates and left it up to them to decide whether to ask for more money than they were offered. Women were less likely than men to negotiate when they believed they would be dealing with a man, but there was no significant difference between men and women when they thought a woman would be making the decision. The applicants, in other words, were accurately reading how males and females were likely to perceive them.

“‘This isn’t about fixing the women,” Bowles said. ‘It isn’t about telling women, ‘You need self-confidence or training.’ They are responding to incentives within the social environment.’”

Other studies find different results, but do read this informative article that summarizes their studies. March is Women’s History Month and you’ll want to take a look at the special material about women’s history available from Jone Johnson Lewis who is’s women’s history expert.

Image Copyright Nikolay Mamluke

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Womens’ Negotiation Reluctance Warranted originally appeared on Human Resources on Friday, March 5th, 2010 at 11:00:20.

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