How to negotiate salary like a (Wo)man – Part 2: 9 ways to overcome gender differences in negotiations

Looking at negotiating your next pay rise? Trying to land a promotion or get this client to sign the contract? This article provides you with key tools & insights to become (even) more effective at all the negotiation tables that you sit at.

Step 1 – Focus on your strengths, find your ‘superpower’

Ahead of a negotiation, it is key for you to own your style, in other words making sure you know exactly what you are best at and why. If you are unsure, ask a friend or colleague for feedback – What it is they see you excel at? What do they seek your advice on? When do they ‘catch you at your best’?

There is also a need to change our own narrative around negotiations. We are often told that successful negotiation requires stereotypical male traits such as being aggressive, dominant & competitive. We also know women are overall ‘at ease’ with those traits. Now if we told ourselves that what it takes to succeed is communication, empathy & people-skills (typical stereotypical female traits), we would most likely perform better as tend to master this ‘female positive’ domain more.

Step 2 – Proactively and regularly initiate negotiations, practice makes perfect!

Step back for a second, consider your propension or likelihood to initiate negotiation. Consider 3 factors:


  1. How often do I recognize opportunity? Life is a negotiation, many things available to people if they ask & daily interactions are opportunities to improve your situation
  2. To what level do I feel entitled? A situation can be changed to fit my desire and I feel I that I have earned the right to have things go my way
  3. What is my apprehension level? I feel anxious, nervous, or stressed when I have to ask or persuade others to give me what I want, it takes me a long time to work up the courage to ask

Several studies show that men tend to engage in negotiation more frequently, rank higher on recognizing opportunities and entitlement levels whereas women experience higher apprehension. When was the last time you engaged in a negotiation? How can you practice more?

Step 3 – Find (or create) a constituency, the mama bear effect 😊

Women are more effective when negotiating on behalf of a constituency, on behalf of others. When doing so, we are more likely to express our interests, make more assertive offers, and hold out for better terms. If negotiating for yourself, try to create your own constituency (e.g. think of your retired self, consider children – conceived or not – or even ‘theoretical’ partner/spouse) as this can boost your level of confidence and ability to ‘hold your ground’

Step 4 – Get (or write) the script, again prepare & practice, practice, practice!

Women tend to earn less money when the negotiation is ‘unscripted’ (ambiguous) but they do better when the context is ‘unambiguous’ (scripted) therefore an option for us could be to write the script and rehearse.


In negotiations, men achieve better results than woman in general, yet the gender difference strongly depends on the context. The differences favoring men are reduced when 1. We have negotiation experience, 2. We have received information and came prepared & 3. We are negotiating on behalf of a team or other individual. By focusing on what can be influenced upon, we can reverse context-bound gender differences.

Step 5 – Make the first offer, dare to dare!

Unfortunately, many negotiations do not come with a script and negotiators who open first have the advantage (except when there is asymmetrical information) known as the anchoring effect. Women are less likely to make the first move VS men which is even more true if you have not prepared an opening offer at all, in this case chances are high that you will be ‘anchored’ by your counterpart’s offer.


Instead, make sure you always prepare an opening point and put it on the table, try to go for a specific number rather than a range as those tend to be more effective. Lastly, remember negotiators who make bolstering range offers are viewed as having more attractive reservation price… in other words, aim high to be able to land your target.

Step 6 – Missed the first offer? Immediately get back on track!

If the other party opens first, don’t lose your cool. Take the time to make a counteroffer using your planned opening offer, simply mind the way you do this. Adjust your communication, avoiding the ‘defensive’ style and shifting towards an ‘interest-based’ reply such as “Thank you for sharing your views, I have also spent some time preparing a set of terms that would work for me. My terms are different from the ones you have sketched. While recognizing the value of your time and in the spirit of beginning our discussion, I’d like to share them with you. Here they are…”


Instead, make sure you always prepare an opening point and put it on the table, try to go for a specific number rather than a range as those tend to be more effective. Lastly, remember negotiators who make bolstering range offers are viewed as having more attractive reservation price… in other words, aim high to be able to land your target.

Step 7 – The art of making concessions, watching out for magnitude

No matter what happens, try not to make unilateral concessions and therefore negotiating against yourself! This typically happens when there is a ‘pause’ or silent time during a negotiation, try to be mindful of that.


Of course, it is a good idea to offer a concession as part of a tradeoff and match (or ideally reduce) the concession magnitude made by your counterparty. As you progress in the discussion, signal that you are nearing your reservation point by reducing your concessions’ magnitude (concede smaller and smaller things and only for as long as your counterpart continues to do the same).


The number of offers and counteroffers usually predicts a win-win outcome, just make sure you record those offers and counteroffers along the way to keep track.

Step 8 – Self-regulation, or the power of ‘reading the room’

Negotiators who engage in a ‘perspective-taking’ approach have greater success, this means that they focus on how their counterpart thinks (what is their purposes or needs? What would they like to achieve as a result of the negotiation?). The ‘emotion-taking’ or empathy-based approach alone – how is the other party feeling? – is proven less efficient.


Your ability to self-regulate is also critical.

  • High self-regulate – you can talk about topics you don’t necessarily know much about, even in a challenging situation you can appear relaxed and determine how to act based on others’ behavior
  • Low self-regulate – you often express your true inner feelings and beliefs without any filters, not attempting to do or say things others will like

Women who have both excellent self-regulating skills (they are able to assess situations & adjust their behaviors accordingly) & display dominance, aggressiveness and competitiveness are more likely to be promoted. That suggests that career advancement involves 1. Being extremely assertive 2. Picking the right moment to be assertive

Step 9 – Make the most of the remote negotiations, keep engaging with your counterpart!

Every time we have a bad-hair day and decide to turn off our camera, we are likely hindering virtual collaboration. While it is okay not to feel camera-ready all day & every day, at the very least post a picture, photo reached agreement

Negotiation might sound like a heavy topic, sometimes even uncomfortable. However, by preparing, practicing, and learning from your previous experiences, you can achieve your professional and personal goals!


Lisa Hild


Advisory Board Member at Career Club DK
International HR Business Partner

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