Gender Differences in Negotiations

April 5, 2018

According to Research and Personal Experiences

When parties understand little about the limits of the bargaining range and appropriate standards for agreement, the ambiguity of a negotiation increases. In highly ambiguous negotiations, it becomes more likely that gender triggers—situational cues that prompt male-female differences in preferences, expectations, and behaviors—will influence negotiation behavior and outcomes. By contrast, in situations with low ambiguity, where negotiators understand the range of possible payoffs and agree on standards for distributing value, outcomes are less likely to reflect gender triggers. Some environments are full of triggers that encourage superior performance by women, while others are full of triggers that encourage superior performance by men. Rather than indicating innate differences between men and women, these triggers reflect stereotypes and long-standing behavioral biases.

gender differences


  • If you want a promotion, bonus or salary increase, frame you request in terms of your crucial contribution to your department or team unit. It shows you are caring, have concern for others and espouse communality.
  • Swap negotiating roles with other females so that they advocate for you, and you them, or take it in turns to support each other.
  • Reframe the whole process in your own mind as one that benefits the whole social group. It provides gender equity for all.
  • Time your requests well, opting for favorable conditions because self-advocation is seen as less unacceptable in times of plenty vs. scarcity or threat.
  • Appeal to common goals across teams, departments, sections so stressing shared interests and cooperation.
  • Negotiate in teams, hetero- or homogeneous, and be seen as a team member, but if you become the team leader, assert always that you are negotiating on behalf of all members.
  • Argue from your position rather than your personality/gender. For example say “It behoves me as a manager,” “I would not be a good director if I did not.”
  • Stress, where possible and appropriate, the idea of “out of the norm behavior” by asserting that very point. “Normally this issue would not trouble me but…”
  • Rather than just being an unusual female negotiator a woman may benefit from highlighting her multiple roles such as employee, manager, community supporter etc.
  • Network with others who are less gender sensitive, who see individual differences more in ability, experience and personality terms than simply the great gender dichotomy.
  • Consider what you really want rather than settling for something less because it seems like a safe choice.
  • If you discover that gender-based stereotypes are negatively affecting your bargaining interactions, you should raise the issue to diminish the impact of negative stereotyping: ask opponents if they find it difficult to negotiate against female adversaries; most male opponents will immediately deny any such beliefs, they are likely to internally reevaluate their treatment of female opponents.
  • Men and women who expect their female adversaries to behave less competitively and more cooperatively often ignore the realities of their negotiation encounters and give a significant bargaining advantage to women who are actually willing to employ manipulative tactics
  • To male opponents who raise specious objections to their otherwise proper conduct, they should reply that they do not wish to be viewed as “ladies,” but merely as participants in bargaining encounters in which their gender should be irrelevant.


These suggestions can help prevent gender from becoming a significant factor in negotiations:

1. Anticipate gender-related triggers. Some degree of ambiguity is present in all negotiations, so be aware of situations that may trigger gender stereotypes or role expectations. Work to counter gender triggers, or use them to benefit negotiation performance. In highly ambiguous, competitive environments, for example, men may be encouraged to maximize their outcomes by ramping up their competitive drive. Women, on the other hand, may be inspired by reminders that they’re representing not just themselves but their colleagues, department, company, or customers.

2. Do your homework. Whether you’re a man or a woman, learn as much as you can about what is possible or appropriate when heading into a salary negotiation or discussing a contract. Research industry norms, investigate precedent, and talk to others who are already employed at the firm or in the industry. Most important, don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need to remain truly motivated and to get the job done well. You and your organization will be better off in the long run.

3. Create transparency surrounding compensation and benefits. To encourage gender equity regarding compensation and career development, your company should codify and publish opportunities and benefits that it may be willing to offer. This doesn’t mean standardizing benefits for all employees but clarifying the range of issues that are up for negotiation and the appropriate criteria on which decisions are based.

4. Articulate performance expectations. When sending your employees into competitive bargaining situations, clearly state performance goals. Armed with transparent comparative information and a sense of acceptable targets, both men and women will achieve better outcomes. Setting high but reasonable aspirations is good for all negotiators and may be especially beneficial for women in ambiguous, competitive negotiations.


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