HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Co-Director of the Woman & Public Policy Program
Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management

Abstract

Policy makers, academics, and media reports suggest that women could shrink the gender pay gap by negotiating more effectively for higher compensation. Yet women entering compensation negotiations face a dilemma: They have to weigh the benefits of negotiating against the social consequences of having negotiated. Research shows that women are penalized socially more than men for negotiating for higher pay. To address this dilemma, the authors test strategies to help women improve both their negotiation and social outcomes in compensation negotiations. In Study 1, communicating concern for organizational relationships improved female negotiators’ social outcomes, and offering a legitimate account for compensation requests improved negotiation outcomes. However, neither strategy—alone or in combination—improved both women’s social and negotiation outcomes. Study 2 tested two strategies devised to improve female negotiators’ social and negotiation outcomes by explaining why a compensation request is legitimate in relational terms. Results showed that, although adherence to the feminine stereotype is insufficient, using these “relational accounts” can improve women’s social and negotiation outcomes at the same time. Normative implications of conformity to gender stereotypes to reduce gender pay disparities are discussed.

Citation

Bowles, Hannah Riley, and Linda Babcock. "How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer." Psychology of Women Quarterly 37.1 (March 2013): 80-96.