Beyond Gender and Negotiation to Gendered Negotiations

by Deborah Kolb & Kathleen L. McGinn

Overview — How does gender affect negotiations within organizations or rather how do organizations affect gender relations? Deborah Kolb, a professor at Simmons College School of Management, and HBS professor Kathleen McGinn explore how definitions of work, specified roles in organizations, status hierarchies, and the politics and practices of organizational realities affect how gender plays out in organizations. Considering gender in organizations from a "negotiated order perspective"—that is, from the perspective that cultural patterns and work practices are the result of past interaction and negotiation—not only expands the range of issues that are potentially negotiable, it also turns attention to rethinking certain dimensions of the negotiation process itself. Key concepts include:

  • Following recent scholarship, the authors distinguish between "first generation" gender discrimination involving intentional acts of bias from "second generation" gender issues, practices that are embedded in organizational workings, that seem unbiased in isolation, but result in different experiences for and treatment of women and men.
  • Certain roles may be deemed more suitable to men than women and vice versa, setting up the need to negotiate for opportunities and fit. A woman's effectiveness as a leader, and the authority she can claim, is often judged differently from that of her male counterparts. Access to networks and flexible work arrangements give rise to the need to negotiate and this need often falls along gendered lines.

Author Abstract

Where do we start if we are interested in understanding how gender plays out in negotiations that take place within organizations? We wanted to move away from simple distinctions between men and women in structured negotiation settings to a deeper investigation of how gender dynamics in organizations impact the underlying premises for, understandings in, and processes of negotiations. To do so, we invited scholars doing research that touched on the implications of gendered practices and policies for negotiations in the workplace to contribute to this special issue. Women often negotiate over issues that men take as givens—opportunities for promotion and training, mentoring, client assignments, partnership arrangements, resources, and office space, among others. When and if these negotiations occur, they take place in the context of a particular negotiated order—cultural patterns and work practices that are the result of past interaction and negotiation. What is of interest here is how these patterns and practices might shape our understanding of gender and negotiation in the workplace and the implications of this framing for research and practice. We explore second generation gender issues, or how gender and gendered relationships shape negotiated orders such that they can have differential consequences for women's and men's negotiations. Each of the articles explores a particular second generation work issue, considers how specific contexts can affect and position negotiators in gendered ways, and delineates the strategies negotiators use in these contexts. In so doing, the articles expand the domains of what we consider negotiable issues as they enhance our understanding of how gender plays out in negotiations.

Paper Information