Study: Women Will Negotiate … If You Tell Them It’s OK

By Alden Wicker

NEW YORK (Learnvest) — Gosh, women would earn what men earn if we would just buck up and negotiate!

OK, the reality is a little bit more complicated. But the fact (opinion?) that women are less likely than men to negotiate their pay still comes up frequently.

The Atlantic reports that Researchers from Australia’s Monash University and the University of Chicago decided to find out if this was true, by following 2,500 U.S. job-seekers applying for an administrative assistant position. What they discovered was surprising.

The working paper reported that although overall there was no difference in the likelihood that a male or female applicant would negotiate their salary, it actually was all about context:

When the employer explicitly says the salary is negotiable, women are more likely than men to negotiate.

When there is no mention the salary is negotiable, men are more likely than women to negotiate. (Just to be clear, both sexes were more likely to negotiate in general when the job listing said the salary was negotiable; it’s just that the word “negotiable” prompted more women than men to actually negotiate.)

Even more interestingly, men are more likely to apply for a job in the first place when it doesn’t say the salary is negotiable.

Women are more willing to negotiate when it’s done over email instead of face-to-face.

It even depends on the city. Women were more likely than men to negotiate in Atlanta (which makes sense, as young women there actually out-earn their male peers), Dallas, Houston, San Francisco and San Diego, while men were more likely than women to negotiate in Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington, DC.

“By merely adding the information that the wage is ‘negotiable’ we successfully reduced the gender gap in job applications by approximately 45%,” the researchers said, adding that this could have implications for public policy.