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Women are Undervalued at the Negotiation Table

Kristen Walsh

A new report from the Center for Women and Business explains why and how to change that

While women are increasingly negotiating for wages at rates similar to men, gender discrimination and related biases continue to put them at a disadvantage and negatively impact their success at the bargaining table, according to a new report from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business (CWB). The report, Workplace Negotiations, Gender, and Intersectionality, highlights relevant research and offers significant insight into wage and negotiating biases toward women, including women of color, women with disabilities and women of different ages.

Latinas stand out among all women as the least likely to seek a raise. In contrast, black women are slightly more or equally likely to seek a raise as white women, but less likely to get one. Asian women are more likely than other women to seek promotions and raises, but they face inconsistent outcomes when they do: They are less likely to be promoted but receive higher compensation for comparable work.

Trish Foster
CWB Executive Director Trish Foster


CWB Executive Director Trish Foster adds that women of color are often unfairly judged. “Biased stereotypes regarding cultural expression present unique challenges for women of color at the negotiating table. Black women, particularly, are likely to be perceived as angry or aggressive when they simply express passion for the topic being discussed. Organizations and workplace allies have to address this type of bias, starting with training for their hiring managers and other negotiators.”

The report finds that women with disabilities are far less likely to feel they have equal opportunities to grow and advance in the workplace. “These findings directly impact the negotiations process for women with disabilities,” Foster says. “Those on the other side of the table need to bring increased understanding and support related to the compounded discrimination women with disabilities might be experiencing.”

Millennial and Gen Z women are negotiating for wages at rates similar to men in many job sectors, yet they are often still asking for less. Recent tech sector data illustrates the point: 61 percent of women are asking for lower salaries than men, and 60 percent of the time, men are still being offered higher salaries than women for the same job titles. “All of this is simply perpetuating the wage gap between men and women,” Foster says. “And don’t forget that, using history as a guide, the impact of Covid-19 and the economic downturn will undoubtedly impact women and other marginalized groups more significantly, which is all the more reason to recognize the importance of this data.”

    Workplace Negotiations Research Report

    The report provides extensive recommendations for organizations along with negotiating strategies geared towards women. “We discuss the benefits of greater wage transparency, clear communications about the rules and expectations of negotiating processes and numerous techniques women can adopt themselves to help level the playing field when it comes to wages and negotiations,” says Foster.

    How workplaces can de-bias negotiations:

    • Create a culture, beginning at the top, that advances diversity, equity and inclusion.
    • Adopt specific policies and processes to make negotiations and wage determination more equitable. Wage transparency and clear processes related to negotiations are important examples.
    • Encourage open communication, trust and respect — they are essential to successful negotiations.

    Negotiation strategies for women:

    • Do your research — know your data, numbers, the person across the table and the organizational culture.
    • Stay focused on your value, incorporating your unique value proposition into your negotiating plan.
    • Be sure to practice your negotiating approach to build skill and confidence.
    • Employ positive strategies — such as a collaborative, “win-win” approach — during the actual negotiation.

    View the Full List of CWB Curated Research Reports