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Since 1973, I have taught Legal Negotiation courses in which we study the negotiation process and the factors that influence bargaining interactions. My students engage in a series of bargaining exercises, the results of which affect their course grades. Over the past thirty years, I have performed several statistical analyses of student negotiation performance based upon gender. (Charles B. Craver & David W. Barnes, “Gender, Risk Taking and Negotiation Performance,” 5 Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 299 (1999)). I have found absolutely no statistically significant differences between the results achieved by men and by women. The average results are almost identical. Several people suggested to me that while the average results might be equal, the male results would be more widely distributed. This theory was based upon the premise that women are more accommodating and less competitive, generating more results in the mid-range, while more competitive, win-lose males would either achieve highly beneficial results or well below average results. If this hypothesis were correct, the standard deviations for the more dispersed males would be higher than those for the centrally concentrated females. The fact that I have found no statistically significant differences with respect to the male and female standard deviations contradicts this theory..
Over the past thirty years, I have discovered that practicing attorneys, business persons, and law students of both genders permit gender-based stereotypes to influence their negotiating interactions with persons of the opposite gender – and even people of the same gender. Many individuals assume that men are highly competitive, manipulative negotiators who always seek to obtain maximum results for themselves, while female negotiators are more accommodating and less competitive interactants who try to maximize the joint returns achieved by the parties.
Legal practitioners and business firm officials should acknowledge the impact that gender-based stereotypes may have upon negotiation interactions. Male attorneys who think that female opponents will not be as competitive or manipulative as their male colleagues provide women adversaries with an inherent advantage. They let their guards down and behave less competitively against female opponents than they would toward male opponents. Female negotiators must also reject gender-based stereotypical beliefs with respect to both male and female opponents. Women who conclude that adversaries are treating them less seriously because of their gender should not hesitate to take advantage of the situation. The favorable bargaining outcomes achieved by these women should teach chauvinistic opponents a crucial lesson.
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Copyright © 2004, Charles B. Craver
Copyright © 2004, The Negotiator Magazine