News & Views‌

What if… women were better negotiators?

August 3, 2016 - 12:00am
UNIBusiness Editor
Women Negotiate

Although the wage gap still does exist, there are some situations where the salary disparity for the same position isn’t necessarily caused by gender discrimination. An example for such is when an HR manager needs two identical jobs to be filled by two candidates with similar qualifications. The same salary is extended to both finalists, but the male negotiates for a higher pay while the female accepts the initial offer without question.

Should they give the female the higher salary that was negotiated by her male counterpart?

In light of the discussions over wage gap — especially the 2014 report that revealed women in the United States were receiving only 79 cents per every dollar received by men — the obvious answer is yes, and with good reasons. If the woman discovers she is making less than a man performing the same role, she can complain about discrimination and even air this out on social media for the whole world to know. This won’t bode well for the organization’s reputation, especially nowadays when people (especially women) prefer to work for equal-opportunity employers.

But this doesn’t mean answering the question with a no is unacceptable.

The situation isn’t as gender-based as it initially seems to be. If the male didn’t negotiate and still got a higher pay, then this is a clear case of discrimination. However, it can be argued that since the male took the initiative to ask for a bigger salary, he deserves the increase compared to the female who didn’t show the same initiative. In spite of the similarities in qualifications, the HR manager can cite the male’s negotiation skills as superior, therefore justifying the difference in pay.

Also, if the two people of the same gender are in the situation, the question on wage gap wouldn’t even be asked. When two males (or two females) are offered the same pay but one of them negotiates, then the HR manager is well within reason to grant the negotiator a higher pay. This puts the original situation in perspective — does gender have a real correlation?

One way to ensure women get the pay they deserve is to be proactive about it.

According to research, most females avoid salary negotiations altogether, which puts them at a disadvantage. By default, many organizations stick to the mid to lower end of the salary range, and would only move it to the higher end if they feel convinced to do so. And what better way to convince employers than through a negotiation? It shows employers confidence and self-assurance, and at the same time, it gives them the assurance that the new person they hired is truly happy with the pay (and therefore lessening the danger of employee dissatisfaction down the road).

Discussions on wage gap are important to bring true equal pay between men and women in the foreseeable future. But at the same time, it’s a good idea to assess situations first to see if the causality involves gender, or if gender just happened to be a non-influencing factor.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by UNIBusiness or the University of Northern Iowa.


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