Here comes number 2 of the series of 3 postings on gender pay gap by Wilma Rossieau and Eline Joseph from Lens,/ Kennedy Executive Search The Netherlands. There are many reasons about the gender pay gap. And some of them seem to be homemade:

“In our previous blogpost about the gender pay gap, we showed through various quotes of our female respondents, that the pay gap is still alive & kicking on the work floor. Women are aware of this phenomenon and seem to accept the situation rather than being willing to adapt to the male reality of putting yourself first.

In this blog we would like to share the experiences of our female respondents regarding the actual negotiating process, the vital few moments of communication in the recruitment process that will make all the difference.

From the responses we received one would almost believe that women do not seem to value their prime salary the same way men do:

“Women tend to be less likely to negotiate for more money. I see men consistently negotiating more, whether they are experienced or more junior.”

“Men consider their salary more important than women do. Men discuss their salary and benefits amongst them.”

“Where women settle for a certain salary level, men continue to negotiate every single salary component to their advantage.”

Looking at the quotes you would also believe that women are more interested in other aspects of the package, especially those providing a better work-life balance:

“When asked to make a horizontal move, women tend to accept this more easily, if the additional ‘non-tangible’ benefits such as extra education or flexible working hours are beneficial to them. Men are more likely to negotiate an on-boarding bonus.”

“Women often do not prioritize on their prime salary and often exchange a salary rise for extra education or flexible working hours.”

But wait a minute: men also seek for better work-life balance plus perks like extra education (think of the numerous prestigious MBA-programs) on top of a salary rise. Explaining the gap by saying that women are just not that into their prime salary would be a strange conclusion since negotiating a higher salary in itself is a fully ‘clean’, objective transaction, applying to every professional in every position. Apparently though it is surrounded by a number of assumptions, unwritten codes of behavior, hidden social rules and prejudices.

Perhaps the tendency of women to seek consent during the negotiation process as opposed to the ‘male’ approach of putting your own interest first, can be explained by the fear of breaking the deal. We believe that breaking the deal and therefor breaking the relation is a risk men are prepared to take more easily than women:

“In negotiations, women usually make transparent statements of their current primary and secondary salary components while men often provide an overall gross salary picture plus clear statements of what they want.”

“Female candidates rarely negotiate at all. A typical reaction of a female candidate to an offer is: “Great offer, but could we take a look at it? – almost like an apology. Male candidates say: “Great offer, but what I need is..”

The question arises if perhaps there are underlying reasons why women are reluctant to negotiate as tough as men do. Asking probe questions, indeed there seem to be certain social dynamics that possibly explain this behaviour:

“I have noticed that it is far less accepted if women show themselves as tough negotiators. With male candidates it is often said: “although he asks a lot, if we want him that badly, we should meet his demands”, where with female candidates the stage of “this far and no further” is reached much quicker.”

To complicate things further, the following statement gives reason to suggest that some sort of double standard is used when evaluating female candidates for executive positions:

“At an executive level, if a candidate does not negotiate or hesitates, this will send a red flag: excitement drops and questions arise to whether this candidate is the right choice.”

“Hiring Managers of top executives sometimes conveniently use the fact that women settle for a lower salary.”

How can women and men work together to get over with the gender pay gap?

  • Bring up the salary subject as conversation topic more often; be more explicit about it in informal conversations with friends and
    colleagues (important first step).
  • Focus on the requirements you meet in job profiles instead of being put off by the requirements you do not meet.
  • Be more explicite in the things you want instead of ‘expecting’ a good offer/ evaluation/ promotion.
  • Always negotiate the full package, not just the secondary benefits.


More on this blog in our posting “33 Things You Can Negotiate Other Than Money”

In our last blog on this subject we will focus on the role of those closely involved in hiring procedures such as Hiring Managers and Executive Search Consultants.

See you here on 8 May.”