Gender in Job Negotiations: A Two-Level Game
Executive Summary — The traditional division of labor between the sexes—women managing the private realm and men the public—continues to have an indirect influence on job negotiation outcomes through links between private realm and public realm negotiations. Women's negotiations at work are often constrained by agreements in negotiations at home. There still remains a significant "unexplained" difference in male and female compensation that, according to research in the past several years, cannot be accounted for by gender differences in work commitment, education, and experience, or other considerations such as unionization. The literature on gender in negotiation may offer insights with regard to how negotiation contributes to or could help diminish gender differences in compensation. Bowles and McGinn review two bodies of literature on gender in negotiation—one from psychology and organizational behavior on candidate-employer negotiations, and another from economics and sociology on household bargaining over chores and child care. Key concepts include:
- The traditional division of labor between the sexes—in which women managed the private realm and men the public—continues to have an indirect influence on job negotiation outcomes through gendered stereotypes feeding into gendered pay expectations.
- The effects of gender on job negotiations are best understood if negotiations at work are viewed as a two-level phenomenon in which candidates' job outcomes are the product of negotiations with domestic partners as well as prospective employers.
- Separate bodies of research on gender in candidate-employer negotiations and on gender in intra-household bargaining offer complementary insights into these two levels of negotiation.
- Taking stock of the practical implications of this literature may help candidates overcome disadvantageous effects of gender on job negotiations and facilitate the creation of greater value for their employers, their domestic partners, and themselves.
We propose a two-level-game (Putnam, 1988) perspective on gender in job negotiations. At Level 1, candidates negotiate with the employers. At Level 2, candidates negotiate with domestic partners. In order to illuminate the interplay between these two levels, we review literature from two separate bodies of literature. Research in psychology and organizational behavior on candidate-employer negotiations sheds light on the effects of gender on Level 1 negotiations. Research from economics and sociology on intra-household bargaining elucidates how negotiations over the allocation of domestic labor at Level 2 influence labor force participation at Level 1. In conclusion, we integrate practical implications from these two bodies of literature to propose a set of prescriptive suggestions for candidates to approach job negotiations as a two-level game and to minimize disadvantageous effects of gender on job negotiation outcomes.