Is the Gender Wage Gap Due to Women’s Lack of Assertiveness in Negotiations?

A recent study led by Denise L. Reyes, a new assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston, comes to the conclusion that the salary gap between men and women may be due to certain personality traits, specifically – assertiveness.

“We found that women are higher in politeness and compassion than men, but neither of these personality traits was related to the propensity to initiate a negotiation,” reports Dr. Reyes. “Rather, assertiveness was positively related to initiating negotiations.”

Dr. Reyes also found gender differences in initiating a negotiation depending on the gender of the negotiation counterpart. “We found that the gender difference in initiating negotiations (men are more likely to initiate than women) is larger when interacting with a male boss. However, rather than women initiating like men when they interacted with a female boss, it turned out that men initiated less when interacting with a female boss.”

In other words, women were unlikely to initiate a negotiation in either condition, but men differed on whether to initiate a negotiation based on the gender of the boss.

“An extensive body of work has identified the role of gender differences in initiating negotiation, however, there is scant research on individual differences that can explain who initiates and successfully performs negotiations,” added Dr. Reyes. “In other words, although there is stark evidence of gender differences in initiating negotiations, there may also be interesting individual differences in the women who do initiate negotiations and the men who do not.”

Dr. Reyes is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Rice University in Houston.

The full study, “Can Gender-Disposed Personality Traits Explain Who Initiates Negotiations?” was published in the journal Group Decision and Negotiation. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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