So this is why women earn less money than men

Posted on July 27, 2017


When I last wrote about the pay gap in the procurement world between the sexes, studies such as the one from Argentus in 2015 showed that except for women at the executive level,  men consistently earned more.

While there was some generalized speculation as to why the gaps existed at various levels, there was no real insight provided that would explain the reason for it.

An article today in the Harvard Business Review Daily Blog appears to provide the much-needed explanation as to why women in procurement earn less than their male counterparts.

A Question Of Negotiation

Whether negotiating a starting salary with a new company or seeking a raise, research shows that “women are penalized for negotiating on their own behalf.”

According to researchers, “both male and female study participants were less interested in working with women who attempted to negotiate a better salary than they were with men who tried to negotiate a higher salary.”

Because of the fear of “social backlash,” the researchers concluded that women avoid negotiating on their own behalf.

Extended Impact

This negative view of women negotiators also has to have an impact on their ability to interact with suppliers. At least this is the conclusion that I reached as a result of another study assertion that “people are also more likely to lie to female negotiators than to male negotiators.” The reason for this “honesty disconnect” is that the same study participants viewed women as being “less competent than men and thus less likely to question their lies.”

Making matters worse, is the finding that both males and females were also “more likely to give male negotiators preferential treatment by disclosing hidden interests.”

From the standpoint of supplier negotiations, these attitudes cannot help but undermine a woman procurement professional’s ability to do her job, which would likely lower her perceived capability and value to the organization resulting in a lower pay.

(Wo)Mano o (Wo)Mano?

Over my many years in the corporate world, I have often heard what I usually dismissed as anecdotal musings about other women being the worst enemy of women in business. The “Queen Bee” syndrome immediately comes to mind.

However, and based on today’s HBR post, women undermining women in the workplace may not be as much of a myth as I had originally thought.

Remember, the results of the studies referred to both “male and female” participants, so this is not a battle between the sexes as much as it is a battle “within” the distinct sexes themselves.

This internal conflict raises the question; is it up to women to change misperceptions within their own group before focusing on changing misconceptions with their male counterparts?

In this regard, the HBR post has some useful tips on how women can achieve better results at the negotiation table,  as well as overcome bias regardless of the sex of the individual with whom they are in negotiations.


Posted in: Commentary