A common explanation for the gender wage gap is that “women just don’t ask.” But recent research dispels this theory.
Controlling for those who ask for raises, men are 25 percent more likely to get a raise, according to a study by researchers at Cass Business School and the University of Warwick in the U.K. and the University of Wisconsin.
These findings point toward an underlying discrimination against women, according to Wharton professor G. Richard Shell, chairperson of the legal studies and business ethics department.
Shell said he sees no reason to believe that women are inherently worse negotiators than men.
“At Wharton, we try to teach students how to be effectively collaborative, to negotiate towards a goal and reevaluate that goal as they gain more information,” he said. “There is no inherent reason men would be better at this than women.”
When Shell looked at the effect of gender on the outcomes of a Bargaining Styles Assessment that he developed across the students he has taught over the years, he noticed almost no difference in distribution of style. This observation suggests that ineffective negotiating styles are an unlikely explanation for suboptimal negotiation outcomes for women.
In instances when a person’s authentic negotiating style consistently does not result in successful career outcomes within an organization, Shell cautions against pivoting to a style that feels uncomfortable for the person.
“When structural barriers are the problem, political action is the best recourse,” Shell said. Shell recommends organizing a group of other women and allies with diverse negotiating styles to help make a case for promotion and address those structural barriers head on.
“The most important thing is to deal with the individual person in front of you,” Shell said. “Stereotypes are seldom useful to inform negotiations.”