Delighted to post this important study and discussion from FOB Rishi Batra

When discussing gender differences in the way that women and men negotiate, much of the well-known literature suggests, “women don’t ask” – i.e. that women are less likely to negotiate for salaries, raises, or promotions, at least when negotiating for themselves. This is often explained by women’s greater concern with maintaining good relationships in the workplace. This supposed propensity is used to explain at least part of the persistent wage gap between men and women.

To further the thesis that everything we know has an expiration date, it turns out that this piece of conventional wisdom about the gender differences in negotiation may no longer be true. A new study released last month (pdf) by Benjamin Artz (UW Oshkosh), Amanda H. Goodall (Cass London) and Andrew J. Oswald (U Warwick) examines direct survey data from Australia in 2013-2014, and they find evidence that women do ask, although they are less likely to “get”.

The Australian Workplace Relations Study (AWRS) seems unique in that it asks workers about whether their pay is set through negotiation with the company, whether they have obtained a wage increase since joining the employer, whether they preferred not to attempt a pay raise because they were concerned about relationships, why they decided that, and about their levels of satisfaction. In the data collected, it turns out that women are no more likely to have avoided negotiating a wage increase due to concern with relationship, and, importantly, there was no statistical difference between men and women in the probability of having asked once hours of work are taken in to account.

Overall, women were still less likely to ask, since women are more likely to be in part time jobs than men are, and more likely to be in jobs where pay is not negotiated. Interestingly, it turns out that when age is taken in to account, younger women (defined as under 40 in the study) are statistically indistinguishable from younger men, in both asking for and and receiving raises, suggesting that negotiating behavior and negotiating results may be changing for women over time.

Of course, some caveats. This is just one study, and it may be that Australian workers or work culture are somehow systematically different from that in the UK or the US. Self-reported survey data can be self-serving in different ways (although the researchers used employee-employer matching and other controls that may control for some of this).   However, the 2016 US Women in the Workplace study also finds that women are negotiating as often as men, but do find that women receive pushback when they do (receiving feedback that they are “bossy” or “too aggressive”).

Time and further research will show, as the current generation ages and attitudes towards gender change, whether these negotiating behaviors and attendant results are really changing over time for women. Right now, the idea that “women don’t ask” is another fact with an expiration date on it

Andrea Schneider is a professor at Marquette Law School teaching ADR, Negotiation, Ethics, International Law, International Conflict Resolution and Art Law. She is the author or co-author of numerous books and book chapters in the field of dispute resolution. She serves as the editor of ADR Prof Blog.