Stereotype threat in salary negotiations is mediated by reservation salary

This paper investigated the influence of stereotype threat on salary negotiations in a sample of male and female business students (N = 116; 57 men, 59 women). Participants were told they would negotiate a salary for a new position, a skill on which men are stereotypically judged to be superior to women. Participants were given a job description and told that the upcoming negotiation would be an accurate gauge of your genuine negotiating abilities and limitations (stereotype threat) or is not an accurate gauge of your genuine negotiating abilities and limitations (control). They then indicated their aspirational salary (the most they could hope for) and their reserve salary (the minimum they would agree to). Participants then engaged in a salary negotiation with a male confederate who was trained in negotiation and blind to condition. The participants first salary request, given in response to an opening offer from the negotiator that was identical for all participant, served as the primary dependent variable in the study. Findings showed that there were no gender difference in salary requests in the control condition but that women requested lower salaries than men in the stereotype threat condition. An examination of the average aspiration salaries and reserve salaries were also affected by stereotype threat. Again, there were no gender differences in aspiration or reservation salaries in the control condition. However, in the stereotype threat condition, women had significantly lower aspiration salaries and marginally lower reservation salaries than men. Examination of the relation between aspiration salaries, reserve salaries, and salary requests showed that salary requests were most strongly predicted by reserve salaries. That is, salary requests tended to mirror reservation salaries but not aspirational salaries, making womens somewhat lower reserve salaries under stereotype threat particularly problematic. In sum, this study shows that stereotype threat in salary negotiations can harms womens economic outcomes and help perpetuate gender biases in the workplace.

Tellhed, U., & Bjorklund, F. (2011). Stereotype threat in salary negotiations is mediated by reservation salary. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 185-195.

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