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Gender Pay Gap Part 2: Why women do not negotiate

In our previous blog post about the gender pay gap, we showed that the pay gap is still alive & kicking on the work floor. Women are aware of this phenomenon and seem to accept the situation rather than being willing to adapt to the male reality of putting yourself first.

In this blog we would like to share the experiences of our female respondents regarding the actual negotiating process, the vital few moments of communication in the recruitment process that will make all the difference. From the responses we received one would almost believe that women do not seem to value their prime salary the same way men do:

“Women tend to be less likely to negotiate for more money. I see men consistently negotiating more, whether they are experienced or more junior.”

“Men consider their salary more important than women do. Men discuss their salary and benefits amongst them.”

“Where women settle for a certain salary level, men continue to negotiate every single salary component to their advantage.”

Looking at the quotes you would also believe that women are more interested in other aspects of the package, especially those providing a better work-life balance:

“When asked to make a horizontal move, women tend to accept this more easily, if the additional ‘non-tangible’ benefits such as extra education or flexible working hours are beneficial to them. Men are more likely to negotiate an on-boarding bonus.”

“Women often do not prioritize on their prime salary and often exchange a salary rise for extra education or flexible working hours.”

But wait a minute: men also seek for better work-life balance plus perks like extra education (think of the numerous prestigious MBA-programs) on top of a salary rise. Explaining the gap by saying that women are just not that into their prime salary would be a strange conclusion since negotiating a higher salary in itself is a fully ‘clean’, objective transaction, applying to every professional in every position. Apparently though it is surrounded by a number of assumptions, unwritten codes of behavior, hidden social rules and prejudices.

Perhaps the tendency of women to seek consent during the negotiation process as opposed to the ‘male’ approach of putting your own interest first, can be explained by the fear of breaking the deal. We believe that breaking the deal and therefor breaking the relation is a risk men are prepared to take more easily than women:

“In negotiations, women usually make transparent statements of their current primary and secondary salary components while men often provide an overall gross salary picture plus clear statements of what they want.”

“Female candidates rarely negotiate at all. A typical reaction of a female candidate to an offer is: “Great offer, but could we take a look at it? – almost like an apology. Male candidates say: “Great offer, but what I need is..”

The question arises if perhaps there are underlying reasons why women are reluctant to negotiate as tough as men do. Asking probe questions, indeed there seem to be certain social dynamics that possibly explain this behaviour:

“I have noticed that it is far less accepted if women show themselves as tough negotiators. With male candidates it is often said: “although he asks a lot, if we want him that badly, we should meet his demands”, where with female candidates the stage of “this far and no further” is reached much quicker.”

To complicate things further, the following statement gives reason to suggest that some sort of double standard is used when evaluating female candidates for executive positions:

“At an executive level, if a candidate does not negotiate or hesitates, this will send a red flag: excitement drops and questions arise to whether this candidate is the right choice.”

“Hiring Managers of top executives sometimes conveniently use the fact that women settle for a lower salary.”

In our last blog on this subject we will focus on the role of those closely involved in hiring procedures such as Hiring Managers and Executive Search Consultants.

See you on the 8th of May!

If you want to know more about the Gender Pay Gap Quest of Eline and Wilma, just give them a call! More info on what we do? Mail us at


Wilma Rossieau is involved in search for positions in healthcare consulting, business development, market access – and quite a few med tech start-ups.





Eline Joseph recently joined Lens, after finishing my Master’s degree in Culture, Organisation and Management at the VU University here in Amsterdam. 


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