Thursday, September 21, 2023

New Study Disputes Conventional Wisdom on Gender Gap in Negotiations

Michael Conklin, Is It Really a Man's World? Using Real-Life Negotiations to Reframe the Negotiation Gender, S.L.U L. J. (forthcoming)


This first-of-its-kind study utilizes a dataset of over 1,000 negotiations from the television show Pawn Stars to analyze the role gender plays in negotiations. The results call into question commonly accepted beliefs about the negotiation gender gap. For example, most studies on the negotiation gender gap consist of hypothetical negotiations in which participants do not experience the real-life consequences of their negotiated outcomes. As the findings of this study attest, drawing conclusions about real-world negotiations from such hypothetical negotiations is problematic. By using a dataset of real-world negotiations, this study provides a valuable framework from which to analyze negotiations and gender bias. The far-reaching ramifications of this study call into question the use of hypotheticals in negotiation studies, proposed solutions to the gender pay gap, how people negotiate differently depending on the gender of their opponents, and negotiation advice specifically offered to women. The methodology for this study allows for further analysis into how men and women negotiate in a real-world setting, such as willingness to walk away from the negotiation, use of a counteroffer rather than accepting a first offer, use of objective language, and implementing cognitive anchoring through an extreme initial offer. Additionally, this study analyzes an aspect of gender discrimination research that is often overlooked—the possibility of counterbalancing gender biases that produce seemingly gender-neutral results. Finally, the findings of this study help rebut the notion that the gender pay gap is simply the result of men’s superior negotiation ability and proclivity to engage in the practice.


The primary finding of this research—that seller gender was not a factor in negotiated outcome—elicits discussion predominantly for how counterintuitive it was. The existing literature on negotiations and gender strongly support the conclusion that, on average, women receive worse outcomes than men.***

While not always approaching statistical significance, it is a notable finding of the present research that men acted in accordance with negotiation best practices better than women in every metric measured. They were more willing to walk away from the negotiation, more likely to use objective language in their offer, more likely to counteroffer, and more likely to implement an extreme initial offer. Nevertheless, the men did not receive any better negotiated outcomes than the women.***

The gender negotiation gap is widely cited as a leading cause for the gender pay gap. But unfortunately for women, explanations for the gender pay gap likely go beyond just differences in negotiation propensity and ability. Even if female new hires did negotiate with the same frequency and techniques as men, there is evidence to suggest they would nevertheless receive disproportionately unequal outcomes. As previously discussed, women find themselves in a double bind when negotiating because female traits can be viewed as poor negotiation strategy but adopting masculine traits can result in being punished for violating gender norms. Also previously discussed, just the expectation that women are not skilled negotiators may result in more of an unwillingness to offer concessions to them during a negotiation, thus resulting in suboptimal negotiating results compared to their male counterparts.

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