The Power of Women and Negotiation in the Workplace

Author: Kassandra Burd, SCWIST Content Creator

The gender pay gap is an ongoing issue that has affected women not only in Canada, but on a global scale. It would be safe to say that societal systemic issues within many career fields, including STEM fields, are to blame for the clear discrepancy, however, it is also important to consider the notion that “bargain effectiveness” also plays a role (Women on Purpose, 2019). First, what needs to change is the obvious discriminatory, sexist practices that the system perpetuates and allows to remain unchanged. Second, it is crucial that women become comfortable with making their voices heard and demanding change. Unjust structural practices in society puts the pressure on women to demand the pay that they deserve in order to meet the same earnings as their male colleagues. While negotiation should be an easy feat for women, it often takes persistence and continuous pressure placed on those in authority to meet those demands. The fact that these inequitable practices are still rampant today illustrates just how much further society needs to advance in order to eliminate the gender pay gap altogether. To arrive at this point, we need to see a systemic transformation while also encouraging salary negotiations between women and people in power, which are necessary to implement change and eliminate existing barriers.

Generally, women make approximately 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues (Valentine, 2012). While the pay gap in STEM fields might not be as high due to the fact that the gap is at 14% versus 21% in non-STEM fields, there is still a noticeable difference between profits earned by men and women. For instance, female computer and information technology majors earned only 77% of the salary that their male colleagues earned one year after graduation (Valentine, 2012). Furthermore, female engineering majors earned only 88% of men’s salaries. Evidently, the gender pay gap is still a problem in STEM, and deserves more attention. Bias against women in STEM fields is not uncommon; according to a study at Yale, science faculty considered an applicant with a male name as being more competent and hireable than somebody with a female name, even though the applications were identical (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). Moreover, the faculty were more willing to provide $4,000 more to the male applicant, while also assigning career mentors to the male over the female (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). It is important to note that the faculty consisted of both men and women, to which gender did not affect responses; this shows that there is even bias amongst women when determining value of female applicants. 

The contrast in STEM salaries can be largely attributed to both prejudice and the differing ways in which men and women negotiate. Typically, men might be more likely to negotiate because society teaches them to be competitive and assertive, while society often teaches women to avoid conflict and put others’ needs ahead of their own (Women on Purpose, 2019). When a job posting is ambiguous with salary negotiation, women are more likely to accept the starting salary, while men are not (Artz et al., 2018). However, it is also true that when women do negotiate their salaries and ask for a raise, they are less likely to receive that raise compared to men (Artz et al., 2018). According to a Harvard study, when women asked for a raise, they received it 15% of the time, while men did so 20% of the time (Artz et al., 2018). The difference doesn’t appear significant, but over time, the magnification of women who are not receiving the same treatment as their male counterparts becomes more discernable. As a Black woman, the discrepancy is even more pronounced. According to a 2019 study by the American Psychological Association, no matter how much time was spent on interview preparation, racial bias can reduce the offer received (Hernandez et al., 2019). Morela Hernandez is a business professor at the University of Virginia, who states that “Racially biased hiring managers often see Black job seekers as less deserving of higher monetary awards and take issue when they ask for more money (Oliver, 2020). Founder and CEO of management consulting agency called Glass Ladder Group, Sabrina Garba, points out that “Black women are woefully undervalued…The problem is systemic prejudice and bias” (Oliver, 2020). Black women are taught to appreciate what they can get and expect nothing more; instilling this mindset can lead to doubt and hesitation when it comes to negotiating fair pay and asking for additional benefits. Clearly, this is something that requires significant change in order to eradicate discriminatory practices within the both the workplace and society at large. 

Advice for women on how to negotiate the gender pay gap is as follows: First, consider the value you hold and stand firmly by it. Think about how you can contribute and how it makes you stand out from other candidates. Second, do your research and think of a target salary; try to aim reasonably high in negotiations with an authority figure. Third, it is crucial to ask for what you deserve rather than remaining silent. Be confident and consider your experience, strengths, and your worth. Lastly, do not settle. If what is being provided to you isn’t fair or sufficient, don’t be afraid to say “no” if the possibility of more opportune jobs or positions are out there (Messmer-Blust, 2016). Furthermore, seeking mentors that can help strengthen resumes, provide advice, and help you connect with hiring managers can greatly benefit career prospects (Oliver, 2020). However, it can be difficult tracking down female mentors where they are vastly underrepresented, especially in STEM fields. This especially holds true for Black female mentors who hold only 3.2% of executive and senior management positions (Oliver, 2020). This disappointing statistic makes it clear that companies need to hire more women in positions of power to further along fairness and equality in the workplace. 

Whether in a STEM or non-STEM field, it is important that women realize their worth and advertise themselves in a way that emphasizes their skills and what they can bring to the table. Women are taught to stay quiet about their needs and desires because it is deemed “selfish,” while men are encouraged to voice their concerns and be assertive about obtaining what they want. Women in STEM are especially taught to appreciate whatever they are given, considering their fields are significantly dominated by men. These are distinctly condemnable ways of thinking, as it furthers inequality and allows the gender pay gap to persist. As perfectly stated, “If women can be inspired to join STEM majors, be supported in pursuing STEM careers after graduation, and be empowered with the legal tools they need to ensure they are compensated equally for equal work, we can start to close the STEM pay gap” (Women on Purpose, 2019). It is unfair to say that women alone must change their negotiation strategies in order to obtain what they want and be treated with the respect they deserve; society, too, must step up to the discriminatory systemic practices that they promote and encourage, and actively fight for women’s advancement and positive change.

References

Benjamin Artz, G. (2019, November 22). Women Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but Are Less Likely to Get Them. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/06/research-women-ask-for-raises-as-often-as-men-but-are-less-likely-to-get-them

Do Men and Women Negotiate Differently. (2019). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.womenonpurpose.ca/do-men-and-women-negotiate-differently/

Hernandez, M., Avery, D. R., Volpone, S. D., & Kaiser, C. R. (2019). Bargaining while Black: The role of race in salary negotiations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(4), 581–592. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000363

Messmer-Blust, A. (2016.). How to negotiate the gender pay gap. Retrieved from http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/how-to-negotiate-the-gender-pay-gap

Moss-Racusin, C., Dovidio, J., Brescoll, V., Graham, M., Handelsman, J. (2012). Faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2012, 201211286; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1211286109

Oliver, B., & Contributor. (2020). I went on 100 interviews in 8 months. This is what it’s like to negotiate your salary as a black woman. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/31/what-its-like-to-negotiate-salary-as-a-black-woman-equal-pay-day.html

Valentine, K. (2012). Closing the Pay Gap in STEM Fields Starts With Education. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/general/news/2012/10/26/43242/closing-the-pay-gap-in-stem-fields-starts-with-education/