Men vs. Women at the Bargaining Table

Often women are more sheepish about asking for more money at work.

ByABC News via logo
September 26, 2007, 6:44 AM

Sept. 26, 2007 — -- Today, women are better educated than their male counterparts, but they're still getting paid less.

On average, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man gets. One explanation for this discrepancy is that women don't negotiate as often as men do, thereby leaving behind money that could be theirs.

We partnered with Carnegie Mellon economist Linda Babcock to create a "Good Morning America" Bargaining Behavior Lab to observe firsthand the differences in negotiation styles between genders.

Volunteers were asked to play the game Boggle. They were also told that they'd be paid between $5 and $12, which was negotiable. After playing one round, our undercover operative offered each person $5 and he said, "Is this OK?"

The unscientific results: More than half of the men asked for more money, but only a third of the women bargained for more.

One of the women who did negotiate told me it wasn't fun. She was uncomfortable during the back and forth. She hated talking about money and she just wanted to get it over with.

Banish negativity. Recognize that for some people, negotiating will never be fun. It won't ever feel good. Don't wait until it feels right or comes naturally because you'll be waiting forever.

Men have likened negotiating to sport; they thrive on it. Women say it's like a root canal! And even though a root canal is by no means pleasant, you wouldn't let your teeth rot just to avoid the procedure. You'd get yourself to the dentist and you'd deal with it because it's the only wise, viable option. Same thing holds for negotiating: Speaking up so you don't leave money on the table is the only viable option. Commit to doing it.

For those who didn't speak up for more than $5 in the Boggle experiment, I also sensed a diminished self-worth or a feeling from these women that they weren't entitled to get more money, let alone ask for more money.

Common thoughts about negotiating that I routinely hear: "This salary is good enough." "It's more money than I was making previously." "I didn't think I could ask for more." "If that's what they think I deserve, well they know best."