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Women Ask For Less

July 7 2003 - A study by Lisa A. Barron, assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine's Graduate School of Management, indicates that women who negotiate job offers generally ask for lower initial salaries than do men. Writing in the June edition of Human Relations Magazine she concludes that this finding is partly due to different beliefs about worth, entitlement and proving oneself.

She studied MBA students entering the job market and found that 71% of male respondents said they believed they were entitled to more money than other job prospects. The responses from women were quite different with 70% of those surveyed indicating they were entitled to a salary equal to other job candidates.

"People with a lower sense of personal entitlement are likely to make smaller salary demands," said Barron, an assistant professor of organization and strategy.

This is believed to be the first study to examine beliefs linked to differences in men's and women's salary requests. Lisa Barron looked for explanations for the findings from previous studies that showed men gain more than women from negotiating salaries, and that women feel less comfortable with negotiating than do men. "Earlier studies did not answer why women and men feel differently," Barron said.

In her research, consisting of negotiations and interviews with 38 second-year MBA students from a major West Coast business school, she found that 85% of the men were comfortable with the idea of equating their worth with a dollar amount and that they knew what they were worth. But 83% of the women remarked that they were less comfortable equating a dollar value with their worth and that the employer was responsible for determining their worth.

83% of women also said they need to prove themselves on the job, while 64% of the men said that proving themselves should be done during the job interview or the performance evaluation process.

"Women and men might be operating under a different logic when requesting a higher salary," Lisa Barron said. "It might be that women are more likely than men to see themselves in relationship to others and are therefore less comfortable promoting their own interests, especially when this might be to the detriment of someone else. Negotiators' comments in our study suggest that men see the salary negotiation as an opportunity to advance their own interests, whereas women believe the negotiation might damage their reputation or their relationships."

Her study included realistic mock negotiations between 38 "new hires" and four professional women recruiters for a mock position offering a salary of $61,000. After the negotiations, Barron interviewed the "new hires" to understand why the men tended to ask for higher salaries than women.

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