Female scholars ‘less successful’ at negotiating job offers

Women are less effective at bargaining monetary benefits but have more success when they feel supported by professors, says study

November 22, 2019
Woman in interview
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Female scholars are less likely to be successful in negotiating job offers than their male counterparts, but support from academic supervisors helps to improve their bargaining skills, according to a new study.  

The paper, based on responses from 163 assistant professors of management at business schools in the US and Canada, found that 63 per cent of women surveyed negotiated their job offer, compared with 77 per cent of male respondents.

While female and male respondents had similar success in negotiating several aspects of the job that support their organisation, such as the number of course preparations per year or details regarding computers and software, women were less likely to be effective at bargaining monetary elements of their contract that supported their own self-interest.

For instance, 71 per cent of the women who negotiated their salary were successful, compared with 87 per cent of men who did the same. Meanwhile, 67 per cent of women and 92 per cent of men who discussed conference funding were successful.

Men were also more successful at bargaining benefits and spousal employment or assistance.

The study, “The impact of gender and perceived academic supervisory support on new faculty negotiation success”, published in Higher Education Quarterly, also explored participants’ perceived level of support from their academic supervisor. The results showed that when female candidates perceived a high level of support they were more effective in their job contract negotiations. However, no effect was found for men.

The research focused on business academics as these scholars were likely to have been “exposed to both conceptual and applied aspects of negotiation” and there is a healthy market for academics in this discipline.

John Fiset, assistant professor in organisational behaviour and human resource management at Memorial University of Newfoundland and co-author of the paper, said that accounting professors tended to “have a choice over where they want to work” whereas in the humanities many researchers were waiting around for positions and did not have the same “clout” to negotiate, or there is the potential that the university could rescind the offer.

In one high-profile case in 2014, a US college withdrew a job offer to a female philosopher who attempted to negotiate the terms of her contract.

Dr Fiset said that gender differences in relation to salary negotiations were well-established but this study sheds a light on other elements of bargaining.

He added that it also contributed to the increasingly prevalent discussion around how universities should train academic supervisors, showing that their role goes beyond training scholars to be better researchers to include career development.

Dr Fiset said that a number of studies have also demonstrated that gender differences are lessened or removed in cases where universities explicitly state that contracts are negotiable.

“A mentor of mine mentioned to me that there’s only a few times in your career that you get to negotiate legitimately as an academic – fewer than if you’re pursuing a career [elsewhere]. So you really have to be on your game in those few instances,” he said.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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