Negotiations, Gender, and Status at the Bargaining Table

Your best tactics in negotiations should take these gender differences into account

By on / Leadership Skills


When it comes to different characteristics in negotiations, a growing body of research suggests that status consciousness varies depending on the gender of interested parties.

First, men tend to care more about status than women do. Using a university-sponsored fundraising campaign, researchers Bruno S. Frey and Stephan Meier of the University of Zurich examined how social-comparison information affected contribution rates.

  • Male students who learned that a high percentage of students had contributed to the campaign were more likely to make a contribution than were female students who received the same information.
Real Leaders Negotiate

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Gender Differences in Bargaining Styles

In the context of gender differences in negotiation, professors John Rizzo of Stony Brook University and Richard Zeckhauser of Harvard University asked a group of young physicians about their reference groups and salary aspirations.

  • Male physicians compared themselves to reference groups that earned higher salaries than the ones female physicians selected.
  • In addition, men’s salary reference points were more indicative than women’s of how much they earned later.
  • Finally, women tend to compare themselves to particular individuals whom they know, while men tend to assess themselves according to information about typical behavior.

For this reason, when negotiating, consider offering different social comparison information to men and women. In job negotiations, you might tell a male prospective hire that you’re offering him more than you’ll give others with his qualifications (assuming that is true).

When negotiating with a female prospect, you might be more specific:

“We recently interviewed someone similar to you, a Kellogg MBA with several years of consulting experience. To signal how much we want you to work for us, we’re offering you more than we offered her.”

Do you think gender influences negotiation? Leave a comment.

Real Leaders Negotiate

Claim your FREE copy: Real Leaders Negotiate

If you aspire to be a great leader, not just a boss, start here: Download our FREE Special Report, Real Leaders Negotiate: Understanding the Difference between Leadership and Management, from Harvard Law School.

Related Leadership Skills Articles: New Car Negotiation: Are Women Better than Men? – Are women better bargainers for a car than men? What characteristics of a woman’s negotiation style makes her more likely to get a good deal on a car? In this article, we describe the different approaches each gender takes to the negotiation table, and which negotiating method brings home the best deal.

Solutions for avoiding intercultural barriers – Overcoming cultural barriers in business negotiation is one of the hardest tasks a negotiator will undertake. How do negotiators communicate and bargain with counterparts from another language or cultural background? This article drawn from negotiation research presents some tips and negotiation advice for those negotiators grappling with overseas counterparts or counterparts from a different cultural background.

Negotiation Skills: Are You Really An Ethical Negotiator? – Ethics in bargaining is a hot topic in bargaining research. Are there universal rules that apply to all negotiations, or are ethics in bargaining changeable, adapting from one negotiation scenario to the next?

Negotiators – Guard Against Ethical Lapses – How to prevent yourself from engaging in unethical practices in negotiation as well as how to identify a deceptive counterpart at the bargaining table and overcome his unethical bargaining tactics.

Honor Your Fellow Negotiator – How to express gratitude and respect for your counterpart at the bargaining table in the hopes of achieving a win-win negotiated agreement and a viable bargaining relationship on into the future.

Originally published in 2013.

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No Responses to “Negotiations, Gender, and Status at the Bargaining Table”

  • Cynthia D.

    “Do you think gender influences negotiation?” Possibly. However, what influences negotiation may be relating to psychological factors of specific individuals rather than to gender. Both men and women have been known to defy common gender roles.

    • Letícia B.

      I think that gender influences negotiation, since we all have unconscious gender bias, including assumptions concerning behavior stereotypes. Thats why research and data about these issues are very helpful.

  • Katie K.

    I have been thinking about this a lot in the context of a female (me) challenging men at the table, particularly in requesting legitimacy and evidence. AOC has a great tweet that talked about women a critiqued as “too this or too that”, with the goal being critiquing into submission. I think as women we need to have well practiced responses to critiques or statements such as “calm
    down” so in the moment we can shut it down!!!

  • Silvia G.

    This is one reason why men earn more than women. Where does ethics play a part? Is it ethical to perpetuate income disparities between men and women? Why not offer them the same amount of money if they are equally qualified, and be transparent about it?


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