HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Co-Director, Center for Public Leadership
Co-Director, Women and Public Policy Program
Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


Women face a compensation negotiation dilemma in which they have to weigh the economic benefits of asking for higher pay with the social risks of defying prescriptive sex stereotypes (Bowles, Babcock, & Lai, 2007). In four experiments, we show that enhancing the legitimacy of women’s compensation requests does not eliminate the social risk of asking, and that eliminating the social risk of asking is not sufficient to legitimize their requests. We identify strategies for overcoming the compensation negotiation dilemma using “relational accounts” that simultaneously explain why the negotiating behavior is appropriate under the circumstances and affirm concern for organizational relationships.


Bowles, Hannah Riley, and Linda Babcock. "Relational Accounts: An Answer for Women to the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP08-066, November 2008.