Can Women Negotiate Better Than Men?

Researchers have studied gender and negotiation worldwide and have noticed differences in style, technique, and perception. For example, the journal Organisational Behaviour & Human Decision Processes published a study in July 2014 that found both men and women tend to lie to a female negotiator about four times more than to a male negotiator.

Because women are seen as less dominant and softer than men, they are at a disadvantage during negotiations. Here are a couple of well-established reasons:


– Stereotyping. Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has studied gender in the workplace extensively. She found that women are believed to be nicer and more willing to put someone else’s interests above their own, which is a hindrance in negotiations. When a woman is assertive, without smiling and acting more feminine, she is thought to be pushy or bossy… or worse.

– Social Backlash. In their research, Professor Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard Business School, Professor Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, and Professor Lei Lai of Tulane University found there is a stigma associated with a woman who negotiates a better starting salary or vacation package. In most cases, supervisors and others in the workplace don’t want to work with her because she appears to be difficult.

– Selfish. Professor Margaret A. Neale, Stanford Graduate School of Business, found that because women are generally more likely to negotiate on behalf of someone else or a group of others, when they do negotiate for themselves, they are seen as selfish. When women step outside of their relational status with others, it is very apparent.


So we can’t really compare men and women in negotiations because the playing field isn’t level. What’s a woman to do when she’s inhibited by such disadvantages at the outset of negotiations?

Here are a few tips to help women use their own natural style of negotiating to achieve higher results (men, you may want to pay attention, too):

  1. Building Relationships. Women are masters at building relationships. First things first, women should use their own natural relational style of negotiating. They are better at reading facial and body cues and determining when each side is happy with the results.
  2. Listening. Women naturally listen more to others to find out what they think, how they feel, and how best they can be helped. When you have that information, you stand in a position of power in negotiations.
  3. Legitimizing. You want to come up with a position that shows your negotiations are legitimate. And this is especially true when placed in the context of organizational relationships where emphasis is on doing what’s best for everyone.
  4. Preparing. You want to be as completely prepared as possible before you go into a negotiation. Know what your rock bottom deal is you will accept. Also know the concessions you are willing to give away. And always be prepared to walk away rather than accept an unfavourable deal.
  5. Framing. Don’t focus on what you want to get out of a negotiation, rather frame everything around what you bring to the table or can help them with. This goes back to the relational style of negotiating that women are more adept with. Show them how you can help them meet or exceed their goals.


Men and women both should take advantage of the above advice when negotiating. You might find negotiating is more fun, easier, and more fulfilling by trying some of these strategies.

If you really want to ramp up your negotiating skills, choose Natural Training’s range of programmes to enhance your natural abilities to negotiate and give you a stronger foundation from which to build. Contact one of our experts today to discuss how we can help you become master negotiators.

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