The Negotiator Magazine

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The Impact of Gender on Bargaining Interactions

Charles B. Craver

In their new book, Women Don’t Ask (2003), Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever note that while 57 percent of male Carnegie Mellon graduate business students negotiate their starting salaries, only 7 percent of women do so – resulting in male starting salaries 7.6 percent higher than those obtained by women. Why don’t women seek to negotiate as frequently as men? If they did so, is there any reason to think they would not do as well?

When men and women negotiate with people of the opposite gender – and even the same gender – stereotypical beliefs influence their interactions. Many men and women assume that males are highly competitive, manipulative, win-lose negotiators who want to obtain good deals from their opponents. Females are considered more accommodating, win-win negotiators who seek to preserve existing relationships by maximizing the joint returns achieved by negotiating parties. If these stereotypical assumptions are correct, we might expect male lawyers and business persons to achieve better negotiating results than female attorneys and business persons.

REAL AND PERCEIVED GENDER-BASED DIFFERENCES

Men are thought to be rational and logical; women are considered emotional and intuitive. Men are expected to emphasize objective fact; women focus more on the maintenance of relationships. Men are expected to be dominant and authoritative; women are supposed to be passive and submissive. When men and women interact, males tend to speak for longer periods of time and to interrupt more often than women. (Deborah Tannen, Talking From 9 to 5 53-77 (1994)). Men employ more direct language, while women often exhibit tentative and deferential speech patterns. During personal interactions, men are more likely than women to employ “highly intensive language” to persuade others, and they are more effective using this approach. Females tend to employ language containing more disclaimers (“I think”; “you know”) than their male cohorts, which causes women to be perceived as less forceful. This gender-based factor is counterbalanced by the fact that women continue to be more sensitive to nonverbal signals than their male cohorts. As a result, they are more likely to be attuned to the subtle messages conveyed by opponents during bargaining encounters.

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