What drives gender differences in negotiation outcomes? Disentangling the role of actor behavior and discrimination
26 Apr 2024 (Fri)
5:00pm – 6:30pm
Online via Zoom
Prof. Gwendolin Sajons, ESCP Business School

Prior research finds that male negotiators, on average, walk away with more value than female negotiators when advocating for themselves in a distributive negotiation context. Two possible mechanisms explain this gender gap: either female negotiators behave differently than males (e.g., less assertively) or counterparts treat female negotiators differently from males (e.g., being more demanding). Designing effective policy interventions requires evaluating the contribution of these two mechanisms, which historically has been thwarted by the fact that in any negotiation the same individual (female or male) is both an actor and a target of others’ possibly discriminatory actions. We introduce an innovative virtual reality paradigm that allows parsing actor behavior from concurrent discrimination during an incentivized negotiation. We find a robust significant association of outcome with negotiator’s true gender, whereby women obtain significantly inferior outcomes, and no evidence of direct discrimination at the bargaining table. Of course, our observed gender differences in negotiator behavior could themselves be the result of anticipatory backlash, incubated from prior experiences of discrimination. Yet, ruling out direct concurrent discriminatory behavior suggests existing laws and organizational policies, constructed to prevent such discrimination, are insufficient for closing the gender gap, and hopefully motivates discussion of other policy interventions.