When asked how to close the gender wage gap, Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, said women need to beef up their negotiating skills.
“Men are better negotiators,” she told Time Warner’s “Capital Tonight” TV program. “I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”
Women who work full-time year-round make just 77 percent of what men make, and progress in closing that gap has stalled for two decades. The last time the Government Accountability Office looked at what drives the gap, after it stripped out factors such as industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure, it still couldn’t explain a 20 percent difference in earnings. It offered discrimination as one reason a gap remains — something that negotiating won’t be able to erase, but the courts could address.
Meanwhile, Cubriel’s claim that women are worse negotiators ignores some realities. Studies have come to a different conclusion. Among MBA graduates, for example, women negotiate for higher pay and higher positions at similar rates as men. Generally, a National Bureau of Economic Research paper found that while women are less likely to negotiate when it isn’t clear that they can do so, when it’s made explicit they drive a harder bargain.
And women may hold back at first because they know they may not get what they ask for. A 2007 study found that both men and women are less likely to hire and want to work with women who ask for raises. Men, on the other hand, don’t face negative consequences and are rewarded with more compensation. Another paper notes, “Research evidence across a number of disciplines and fields has shown that women can encounter both social and financial backlash when they behave assertively, for example, by asking for resources at the bargaining table.”
Even if women don’t face repercussions for asking for more, they may not get what they want. When researchers told managers they would have a limited amount of money to give raises to employees with identical skills and responsibilities, those who knew they would have to negotiate started out giving men two and a half times what they gave women before discussions even began. Another study found that among the most ambitious and successful workers of both genders working full time, twice as many men using proactive advancement tactics get ahead as women using the same approach. It concludes, “[W]hen women used the same career advancement strategies as men, they advanced less.”