Role of Gender in Negotiations

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Gender differences in negotiation have a huge real-world effect that results in an ever-widening pay gap between women and men. In part, this is due to the fear women have of being assertive when they negotiate. We aim to investigate whether assertive women will receive the same or different amount of backlash when negotiating in same-sex versus mixed-sex dyads. The study will also look at the expectations about women have when entering a negotiation in which they are supposed to act against traditional gender norms, and whether those expectations will differ for when they’re negotiating against men or women. We hypothesize that while expected backlash will be decreased in same-sex negotiations, the expressed backlash will be increased compared to mixed-sex dyads, due to incorrect stereotypes and harsher judgement of the violation of gender norms. A negotiation exercise will be completed by 200male and female participants, and a one-way ANOVA will be run to compare amounts of expected and expressed backlash in same and mixed-sex negotiations.

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Anticipated and Expressed Backlash in Same-Sex Dyads

Gender in negotiation has become a very influential and widely discussed topic in the past decade. With more attention being brought to the pay gap, inequalities regarding maternity and paternity leave, as well as the different work opportunities available to men and women, the discussion of gender equality in the workplace has been an enlightening and frustrating one. Objective outcomes, as well as initiating negotiation, have been thought to be one of the primary factors that are contributing to the inequality, as women have been observed making more concessions and initiating less negotiations, leading to a marked difference in salaries, vacation days, and other economic outcomes (Small, Gelfand, Babcock, &Gettman, 2007). This difference is influenced by a lot of variables, not the least of which being the fear of backlash if one decides to negotiate for themselves, and, even worse, be assertive in the process (Amanatullah& Tinsley, 2013).

Previous research has revealed that women alter their behavior depending on whether the context of the negotiation could be considered in line with female gender roles, e.g. requiring advocacy on other people’s parts, or being a distributing vs integrative situation (Amanatullah& Morris, 2010). This adjustment of behavior, from negotiating assertively for others, to making a lot of concessions when negotiating for themselves, is likely due to the fear backlash from the other negotiating party, as well as the general unease of violating a perceived social norm (Amanatullah& Morris, 2010), as women usually are expected to be peaceful and selfless. Men do not experience the same backlash, as there was no difference found between when men negotiate assertively or non-assertively for themselves or others (Amanatullah& Morris, 2010). Therefore, we can infer that women are going to be experiencing backlash when negotiating assertively, and men will not, leading to our questions of whether the backlash will be more severe when negotiating with men or other women.

Very similar findings were uncovered in the study by Amanathullah and Tinsley, in an effort to find out the reason why assertive females who were not advocating for others suffered so much backlash (2013). They discovered that the backlash expressed by negotiating parties was due to the assertive women’s perceived violation of traditional social norms: the women were acting out of self-interest and expressing traditionally male traits, which made the negotiators think of them less (Amanatullah& Tinsley, 2013). As such, we can expect both men and women to be uncomfortable with the breaching of the feminine stereotypes and engage in backlash.

The saliency of the traditional gender norms tends to be a lot higher in a face-to-face negotiation, and therefore influences backlash more than a virtual negotiation (Stuhmacher&Linnabery, 2013). However, when women are overtly reminded of the stereotypes surrounding femininity, they tend to try and disprove them by acting in traditionally masculine ways (Bowles, Babcock, & McGinn, 2005). Thus, when there is no overt reminder of feminine stereotypes, it is predicted that women will tend to act in the way that their social roles dictate them to and not try to actively dispute them (Stuhlmacher&Linnabery, 2013), leading to decreased backlash from their counterparts.

Additionally, Kray, Galinsky, and Thompson discovered that tasks that are framed as requiring traditionally feminine qualities, led to better outcomes being achieved by women, and lesser outcomes being achieved by men, and vice versa (2002). In neutral settings, however, gender had little to no effect on negotiation outcomes (Kray et al., 2002). Therefore, it can be expected that in a negotiation on a topic relevant to both genders, which will have no specific framing for feminine or masculine trait success, women will not receive any preference over men and will not experience reduced backlash.

However, in all of these studies detailing amount of backlash, stereotype threat, the influence of gender roles, attention was never shifted to whether there was a difference in how women and men react to the violation of supposed stereotypes. It has never been explored of how the backlash for women acting assertively would differ between same-sex and mixed-sex dyads. It is important to understand whether women would view other women more favorably and disregard the challenging of the traditional, communal social roles, or if they would judge their counterparts more harshly or the same as men would. We predict that females negotiating assertively in same-sex dyads will also expect and experience backlash, just like females negotiating in mixed-sex dyads. Moreover, the amount of backlash will be higher than in mixed-sex dyads, but the expectations of it will be lower, because of the perceived stereotype that women must stick together and help each other out just because of their gender.

In this experiment, we will aim to test our hypothesis about women experiencing backlash from other women for violating gender norms. We will engage 150 female and 50 male participants in a negotiation exercise that will involve the lower power woman acting assertively, and compare the backlash received from high power male and female negotiators. Because of the saliency of gender norms, as well as the factor of competitiveness, we believe that women will receive more backlash from women, rather than from men, but will expect less backlash because of perceived camaraderie and preexisting familiarity with gender norms.



For this study, we plan to recruit at least 200 participants. Except for being over 18 years old, there would be no requirements for age. 50 people who identify as traditionally male, and 150 people who identify as traditionally female would be recruited. Individuals identifying as transgender, gender-fluid, or “other” would be excluded from the study, as their identification with specific traditional gender roles could potentially be not as salient and would therefore skew the results. There would be no restrictions in terms of race, sexual orientation, education, or previous experience with negotiation. No compensation would be provided, in order to avoid creating a moderating effect.


To test the hypothesis, a pen-and-paper negotiation exercise will be given to the participants. The first page will include demographics questions, such as gender, age, race, education level, and experience with previous negotiations. The second page will feature an explanation of the negotiation process, as well as detail the role assigned to the participant (supervisor vs employee). The “employee” role participants will also be encouraged to act assertively during the negotiation and reminded that it is a distributive negotiation, as well as asked about how much and what type of backlash they would expect to experience based on their assertiveness. The rest of the packet will include the actual exercise, in which a supervisor and an employee will be discussing a pay raise. Points will be assigned to each possible outcome and there will be no compatible issues – a strictly distributive negotiation. Participants in the “supervisor” role will have an additional page asking about the potential for work and social-based backlash, while the “employees” will be asked to indicate their satisfaction with the agreement reached. All of these will be 7-point Likert scales.


A face-to-face negotiation will be conducted using the materials described in the section above. There will be 100 participants in the same-sex condition, and 100 participants in the control group, which will be mixed-sex. The same-sex condition will have all participants randomly assigned to both roles, while the mixed-sex participants will have males as “supervisors” and females as “employees”, in order to be able to compare backlash against assertive females equally. All the “employees” will be encouraged to negotiate assertively. The participants will first be led in separate rooms and given 10 minutes to read the materials and prepare for the negotiation. After that, they will both be brought into a room containing a set-up to record the negotiation in its entirety. The exercise will have no time limit, but participants will be required to come to an agreement. After the negotiation, they will be brought into separate rooms again, and complete the last page of the packet, dealing with expectations, backlash and satisfaction.

Proposed Analyses

A one-way ANOVA will be run in order to determine the differences between the amount of backlash females faced when negotiating with males, and the amount faced when negotiating with other females. The amount of backlash will be determined by calculating the means of the results from the backlash scale. If the results of the ANOVA are significant, it the analysis will prove our hypothesis that females experienced backlash when assertively negotiating with other females. Depending on the results, it might also prove or disprove our hypothesis of females experiencing more backlash when negotiating with other females.

An additional one-way ANOVA will be run in order to compare the expectations of backlash between women negotiating in same-sex vs mixed-sex dyads. The data will be gathered form the expectations scale used in the first page of the negotiation packet. If the results show a difference in expectations, it will either prove or disprove the hypothesis that women negotiating with other women will expect less backlash.

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