Why women are less likely to negotiate pay (and why almost everyone should)

When a company makes a job offer, most expect some back-and-forth with the candidate over the compensation package, but a ResumeBuilder survey found only 49% of men, and just 32% of women have negotiated a job offer’s pay within the past two years.

In addition, 55% of men who negotiated and 42% of women who did said they achieved exactly what they wanted.

A strategist says that the difference between women’s willingness to negotiate is notable.

“I think there are so many reasons, but if I had to give a couple of blanket reasons that I think apply to most women, I would say confidence and imposter syndrome play a big roll. I also think fear and a lack of information can play a big part,” said Julia Toothacre, resume and career strategist at ResumeBuilder.

“I think gender bias can play a really big role here. Unfortunately, that is something that is very hard to prove,” she said.

Women in director and executive positions were more likely than women in lower-level positions to say their gender played a role in their decision not to negotiate.

Both men and women in the 25 to 34 year old age group were the most likely age group to negotiate, at 60% and 41% respectively.

An application may ask a candidate to list their expected pay range. If that is not the case, the applicant should list their expectations anyway, perhaps in the cover letter.

Doing so would save time up front, for both the company and the person applying for the job.

“The recruiters and the hiring managers have a range that they are trying to stay within,” Toothacre said. “You also, as a candidate, have a range. And if they can’t get to that range, you shouldn’t be applying for the position, because it’s not going to work out for you.”

How much wiggle room do candidates have when countering a salary offer? It depends on the salary, but Toothacre uses an example of a starting salary offer in the high-five to low-six figure range.

“I think if you are within about $5,000 to $7,000, or basically under $10,000, you are okay to start that negotiation process,” she said. “Most companies are willing to negotiate. They expect you to negotiate.”

When a hiring manager indicates little or no room to budge on the initial pay, ResumeBuilder said candidates should look past the salary, to other parts of the compensation package, such as stock options, flexibility, work-from-home options or other stipends.

The top reasons given for not negotiating in the survey were fear of losing the job offer altogether and feeling intimidated.

ResumeBuilder’s full report, survey results and methodology, are online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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