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Women are just as good as men at negotiating salary, despite employers' claims

Researchers say gender stereotypes surrounding pay negotiations are 'misleading'

Sarah Young
Friday 11 January 2019 14:26 GMT

Despite years of employers claiming otherwise, new research has revealed women to be equally as good as men at salary negotiations.

Almost 50 years since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act (1970), the UK still has a glaring gender pay gap with figures from the Office for National Statistics placing it around 18 per cent.

While many believe the chasm comes down to a combination of factors including childcare and discrimination, employers have often claimed that the gap is the result of women’s lesser negotiating skills when it comes to asking for pay rises and promotions.

But a new study on how gender affects these discussions is disputing this excuse entirely.

In a series of experiments conducted by Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, male and female participants were randomly assigned the roles of boss and employee.

They were then asked to negotiate an agreement that would determine how much they were each paid for taking part in the experiment.

The test showed no difference between men and women’s negotiating skills and found that women were just as self interested as their male counterparts.

This indicates that a woman’s ability, or lack thereof, to discuss salary is in no way a significant factor when it comes to explaining the pay gap.

“Some attribute the pay gap to perceived gender differences in wage contract negotiations or to a belief that women undermine their own bargaining position by extending too much trust to others in negotiations,” said Holona Ochs, associate professor of political science at Lehigh University.

“Our findings suggest that the gender stereotypes that lead to the perception that men may negotiate better wage contracts than women are misleading, and that individual behaviour in hierarchical negotiation settings, like between a boss and employee, is more likely affected by the context, than by gender differences.

“Our research report shows how institution-free environments (like experiments) which do not exist in the real world – provide a baseline to measure how institutions shape the behaviour of real public workers in real agencies.”

The study follows the announcement that the global pay gap between men and women will take 202 years to close.

The World Econonmic Forum said the gap has narrowed slightly over the past year, but that the number of women in the professional workplace has fallen.

It also revealed that women are significantly affected by the automation of jobs and development of artificial intelligence, warning that unless more women are encouraged to enter the fields of science, technology and engineering, the gender gap could widen.

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