A 2023 Pew Research Center report showed the gender pay gap hasn’t closed much over the past 20 years.
Over recent decades, there have been many studies seeking to understand what contributes to the prevailing gender wage gap. The differences in the way women and men approach negotiations has been theorized as one reason why.
In September, ResumeBuilder.com surveyed 1,417 full-time workers to understand, specifically over the past two years, which workers negotiated compensation, how successful they were, and what may have limited them.
- 49% of men vs. 32% of women negotiated their compensation within the past two years
- 55% of men who negotiated vs. 42% of women who negotiated say they achieved exactly what they wanted
- Intimidation tops reasons for why women choose not to negotiate
- Women in director/executive positions were more likely than women in lower-level positions to say their gender played a role in their decision not to negotiate (76% vs. 57%)
Fewer women negotiated compensation in the past two years
Overall, nearly half (49%) of men say they negotiated their compensation within the past two years while only about one-third (32%) of women did.
The plurality of respondents were negotiating for a new role at the company they were currently working for (39%), while 30% say it was for a new role at a new company, and 31% for a role they were currently in.
Women 25-34 years old were the most likely age group of women to negotiate (41%), and men in this age group were also the most likely age group of men to negotiate (60%).
The primary reason women negotiated compensation was because the offer or their current pay was not aligned with their value (46%). This was also the top reason for men (39%).
Resume and Career Strategist Julia Toothacre says limiting beliefs and the pandemic may have played a role in why fewer women negotiated.
“In my experience, women question their value more than men, which leads them to feel like they can’t ask for more. Because I work with high-performing women, there is also a fear of being too forward or seen as aggressive. This isn’t exclusive to the last two years as I’ve seen it happen since I started coaching and was a victim of it myself,” says Toothacre.
“What I’ve seen more in the last two years is people changing their profession because the pandemic forced them to analyze their priorities and in turn what they want in their career. There was an awakening of sorts where people wanted to focus more on family and life and less on climbing the career ladder. When people make big career changes, it can impact their confidence in negotiating because the experience they have isn’t as direct. They likely have a lot of skills that will transfer over to the new career but expect to make less or be offered less because of the change. This shouldn’t stop people from negotiating because you’re bringing a fresh perspective, but it often does and especially with women.”
Women less likely to be successful at negotiating
Overall, men were more likely to have success with negotiating.
More than half (55%) of men who negotiated say they got exactly what they wanted compared to 42% of women who negotiated, while 42% of men say they got close to what they wanted compared to 52% of women.
Nearly twice as many women than men (5% vs. 3%) didn’t get close to or at all what they wanted.
“The women I’ve seen do well in negotiations are confident in themselves and their abilities. They know how to talk about their accomplishments and they’ve done their research. They aren’t afraid of negotiating because they know their worth. It all comes back to confidence and value. It’s not that women can’t negotiate or that they are less qualified.
“Having said that, gender bias is still common in the hiring and negotiation process. Consideration needs to be made around the fact that it’s likely women aren’t being offered the same salary as men. Coupled with women’s tendency to not negotiate, the gender pay gap will continue to grow. Organizations usually have a salary band they need to stay within, and if your offer is on the low end of that band, and you don’t negotiate, you’re missing out on additional money,” says Toothacre
Intimidation stops women who considered negotiating from doing so
Thirty-one percent of women considered negotiating but decided not to as did 29% of men.
The top reasons women considered negotiating but chose not to were the fear of losing the job or offer (34%), being too intimidated (33%), and the offer already being more than they were previously making (30%).
Only 19% of women in director or executive positions say intimidation stopped them from negotiating compensation. The most common reason women in these higher-level positions refrained from negotiating was the current offer was more than they were previously making (48%).
For men the top reason for ultimately choosing not to negotiate after considering doing so was also fear of losing the job or the job offer (37%). Additional reasons included the offer already being more than they were previously making (35%) and knowing the offer was more than they could get elsewhere (27%). Only 20% of men said the reason was they were too intimated.
When asked how much of a role, if any, gender played in stopping them from negotiating, 13% of women said ‘a lot’, 46% ‘a little,’ while 25% said ‘not very much’ and 17% said ‘not at all.’
A number of men also felt their gender played a role in stopping them from negotiating.
Women in high-level positions were more likely than women in lower-level positions to say their gender played a role in their decision not to negotiate (76% vs. 57%).
“I believe women are intimidated by negotiating because in many cases they suffer from imposter syndrome,” says Juila Toothacre. “They feel grateful for the opportunity and already feel unqualified for the role. Many women severely undervalue their skills and contributions in the workplace, and as a result, they end up making significantly less than their male counterparts doing similar work.”
“Women can feel more confident in the negotiation process by first outlining why they are a good fit for the position and what experience they already have that exceeds the minimum requirements for the role. Then, it’s important to research the company and the average salary for the position. Confidence comes from arming yourself with data and information to make your case,” Toothacre continues.
“Unless you are in a situation where the salary is set, there is always room for negotiation and most companies expect it to happen. If the company can’t negotiate, they will usually tell you. This happens frequently with nonprofit organizations that have limited budgets or organizations that have defined pay scales.
“It’s rare that a company will pull an offer due to an unreasonable ask, but it’s not unheard of. If you’re doing your research and willing to walk away if the offer isn’t what you need, there is no need to be fearful of negotiation. Many hiring managers and recruiters share the salary range early in the hiring process to ensure it’s within the candidate’s range. Before you start a job search, it’s helpful to know what you want your target salary to be and try not to take interviews that don’t fall in line with your needs.”
This survey was commissioned by ResumeBuilder.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. It was launched on September 7, 2023. In total, 1,417 full-time workers were surveyed.
Additionally, respondents had to meet demographic criteria, including being currently employed and having earned at least a high school degree.
To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.