Women should not bother negotiating salary

In a survey of graduating professional students, Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon University, found that only seven per cent of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while fifty-seven per cent of the men did so. After years of analysis, she concludes that women might, in fact, be better off not negotiating.

Babcock is not the only person to draw this conclusion. Here’s why:

1. Women are often penalized for negotiating.
Men are rewarded for negotiating because doing so makes them seem tough and self-confident. But women are considered brash and annoying when they negotiate. The New Yorker reports how “Women who don’t negotiate may not be refraining because they are shy. They may, instead, be anticipating very real attitudes and very real reactions that are borne out, time and again, in the lab and in the office.” Often, negotiating has an even worse effect than saying nothing.

Most people are hired and fired based on the elusive cultural fit, which mostly means they can become part of the boys club, especially at higher levels. Women need to pass that test just to get an offer and they need to toe the line to keep from getting fired. Not negotiating is often an effective part of that strategy.

2. Women don’t get as excited about winning.
In competition, both men and women have a rise in testosterone. But whereas men see another rise when they win, testosterone levels in women don’t change whether they win or lose. For women, then, the process is more important than the success, according to Marvin Zuckerman, professor of psychology at University of Delaware.

Taking Sex Differences Seriously is a compendium of this type of research. Over and over again—in tennis, in trading, in management, and so on—hormonal differences are crucial to understanding why men negotiate and women don’t. Women have ten percent of the testosterone that men do, but women have high levels of oxytocin and estrogen which make women peacemakers and collaborators rather than dominators and competitors.

You can’t make a woman get excited about something her brain chemically does not care about. If it were life or death then maybe women could take testosterone (which has been shown to increase competitiveness in women). But surely hormone therapy doesn’t seem appropriate merely for salary negotations.

3. Learning scripts works better for women than negotiating.
Chris Voss spent decades as a hostage negotiator for the FBI, and he’s got some negotiating advice for civilians.

If someone says, “Let’s revisit your salary in three months.”
You say, “How am I supposed to do that?”
They will realize it’s an impossible thing for you to do.

If someone says, “It’s not a good time,” or “We don’t have the budget.”
You say, “It seems like there’s nothing you can do.”
People don’t like feeling powerless, so they might think of an alternative to demonstrate their power.

The most important script for women is probably the one that avoids having to give salary history. This is so important the the US Department of Labor is considering making it illegal to ask salary history because it serves to perpetuate salary differentiations between men and women.

For example, often women make lifestyle choices and take lower pay. But if you take a lower salary for a few years so you can have room to take care of your family, you should not have to reveal that salary when you’re ready to ramp up your career later.

So you need to learn a slew of scripts to get you out of any tough spot and keep negotiations going in your favor. Even if negotiations are dead, it should be because you chose to end them.

4. A more sure bet for a good salary is to work for a man with a daughter. 
When male CEOs have kids, women benefit, according to a paper presented at the American Economics Association. When the first born is a girl, both men’s and women’s salaries improve, but women’s increase more. When the first born is a boy, overall salaries decrease, but only men’s actually reduce while women’s salaries improve, albeit slightly.

Or you could just play the salary statistics game. Keep your maiden name, because women who keep their maiden name get higher salaries. You’ll earn 14% more salary if you drink alcohol. And keep your chin up when the company starts to fail. You’ll be a likely candidate for your boss’ job because women get promoted when the organization is already going to hell.

5. Save your feminist rampage for another time. 
Women do not teach men how to behave better through negotiating salary with them. Because men are not trying to be sexist. They just have no idea they are doing it. Women do not stand up for themselves when they negotiate, because the best way to stand up for women is to get power, and you can’t get power if you keep getting fired because of a bad cultural fit.

Also, please do not rip me apart in the comments for being bad for women. I still get threatening emails from when I said women should not report sexual harassment. Look, I’m not making the rules here. I’m not creating reality. I’m just reporting reality to you so you can make a good decision. You will be fired if you report sexual harassment and you will be fired if you negotiate as hard as a man does. Deal with it.

96 replies
  1. Scritch
    Scritch says:


    all your extrapolations from these surveys seem to say (and you certainly seem to believe) that surveys are static, unchangeable and absolute.

    By telling women to never negotiate you are actively contributing to a climate where a woman negotiating is perceived badly. Can you actually see that? (perhaps not, not unless a survey confirmed my statement perhaps.)

    It is increasingly frustrating to constantly read your subtle but consistent message between the lines of all your posts: “the status quo will never change. you will never change it. surveys are always correct and forever”

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      This is where I lose Penelope too. She identifies current sexism, especially in the workplace – and then enshrines it as everlasting fact. She encourages women to fit themselves into that mold telling us we will be happier and have better marriages if we can contort ourselves into the role society has prescribed for us.
      We have made progress. The workplace of today is not what it was 50 years ago. It is a mistake to assume that progress has halted and there is nothing more we can do.
      Humans are prone to the mistaken belief that the current reality is permanent. Dan Gilbert gave a great TED talk on this. http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/18/daniel-gilbert-happiness-future-self/ ““Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished”

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        A diversion into personality type and our outlook on life:

        As an ENTJ I am not one prone to think that the world is unmovable. I do think this comes down to personality type, though.

        And NF thinks about how things should be and what we can do to overcome the status quo and make things more in line with our ideals.

        An NT thinks the world is a game of ideas and the NT wants to win the game of ideas: as in, how can I get an idea that cuts through all the other ideas and has better results.

        For an NT better results is pragmatic. For an NF better results is values-based.

        So, this is a long way to say that you care about making the world a better place and I am writing advice about winning in the world right now.


        • anon
          anon says:

          SPINELESS. Lucky for us you weren’t part of the suffragette movement or we’d still be groveling for the right to vote.

        • SC
          SC says:

          I really love this. All these women whining about changing things and you’re over here counting the money they could have made.

          So much of feminism requires men and women to act and be treated identically, and assumes that any significant gender difference must be culturally constructed. Why not accept that there are differences, and use them to win instead of trying to force them away.

          • anon
            anon says:

            “Sexually harass me all you like, Boss. I’m weak, and I’ll never report it. I’m just a woman, after all. Not worthy of asserting my own dignity be demanding basic respect as a person.”


          • Pirate Jo
            Pirate Jo says:

            If you want more workplaces to hire employees with tattoos, the way to do that is show up without a tattoo, get the job, make your way to the boss’s chair, and then start hiring people with tattoos.

            If just show up for the interview with a tattoo and feel all butthurt when you don’t get the job, you’ve really accomplished nothing.

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          Which is why you encourage women to play the game, to stay in the game, and change things from within. It’s more about where to put your limited resources to get the most out of the system now than accepting the status quo.

        • Daniel Baskin
          Daniel Baskin says:

          Penelope *did* offer a solution for how things change for women: Do whatever you must to get the power. Obviously, many disagree with that and think change can happen more directly. Disagreement as to means is not disagreement as to whether.

          Penelope–your NF vs. NT description reminds me of liberal infighting between the idealists–who say we should have such and such liberal policies because humanity and equality, and justice, and etc.–and the pragmatists who get angry because the conversation isn’t centered on hard data showing that a more equitable society makes for a stronger economy and that values championing just alienates conservatives. (Yes, I’m in the liberal pragmatist camp.)

        • Lily
          Lily says:

          As an NF, I find Penelope’s unapologetically NT advice very pragmatic and results-oriented. Her advice isn’t to perpetuate the problem, it’s about taking care of yourself first so that you’re in a better position to fight the problem long-term. There’s something to be said for self-preservation, living another day to fight the fight.

          I also appreciate her respect for diversity and opposing viewpoints, especially awareness other MBTI types. For an ENTJ she’s very enlightened. Don’t chastise her for being herself, and she’ll give you that same respect.

          • Jean
            Jean says:

            Is the goal simply to help our own selfish needs immediately or to create a society worthy of living in for your children? Great things take great sacrifice, and if you’re only ever looking out for yourself then you are likely stepping on others to get there & by the time you get to the top you’ll have left a wake of destruction behind you

        • Jenna
          Jenna says:

          I really appreciate your comment. I had really conflicted feelings reading your article.

          I’m an INFP and all that time think about how my actions can make the world a better place for my daughter. I didn’t like the advice in the article because I thought… what about my daughter? I’m not going to encourage her to sit down and shut up.

          However, two weeks ago, I did some hard negotiations on my starting salary and walked away with a great number and a distinctive feeling that I had just burned some bridges or left a bad impression.

          Good thoughts. I wish I hadn’t pushed so hard on my salary.

          • Lauren Bishop
            Lauren Bishop says:

            Unfortunately we have to be more competent than men do to be perceived as worthy of what we ask for. We even have to be more competent negotiators!

            I would highly recommend “Slate Negotiation Academy” as a resource. 10 part podcast covering principals of negotiation.

            Ramit Sethi also has some good videos and blog posts on negotiation.

            I think negotiation is FASCINATING. I’ve been a successful negotiator so far, and credit my success to:
            – The resources above
            – Being super competent
            – Interviewing really well (the INFJ in me can read any situation and figure out what people want to hear)
            – Living in a town with less talent (a Stanford degree carries a lot more weight when it’s a rare commodity – I bet I wouldn’t have the same success negotiating if I lived in the SF Bay Area)

          • Jean
            Jean says:

            Should you work in an environment where people are going to judge you negatively for asking for what you’re worth? Are your employers worthy of your time & effort?

        • Michele
          Michele says:

          Agree! I am an NT and thought how I would maneuver my way to the top immediately and in fact knew this stuff already. Penelope is stating how it goes, so learn how to play The Game. Don’t get hurt feelings over it people.

    • jim
      jim says:

      Hmm, for some reason my amen comment did not place after Scritch, which is what I wanted it to do. Sigh. Penelope is bad about doing exactly what Scritch points out.

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      Thank you so much for this comment, scritch!Penelope’s blog came highly recommended from another blog I have been following for quite some time and have found extremely helpful. How disappointing that this was the first post I read! Telling readers ‘this is the way it is, get over it’ is extremely petty as well. Unfortunately I will not be a follower or Penelope Trunk.

  2. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    The working women I know who have become mothers over the last 5-10 years are amazing at negotiating flexibility. Women are not penalized when they are negotiating something for their family and they are pretty driven to do so. So I’ve seen part-time work carved from nowhere, more working from home options, etc. Often they have to ensure they are not being short-changed for the flexibility and still being paid appropriately, but otherwise it is transforming many workplaces for the better.

    • LL
      LL says:

      This comment is on target – I suspect women are penalized less (or not at all) when they’re negotiating for family-oriented, traditionally ‘feminine’ benefits than when they’re negotiating for cold, hard cash.

    • Julia
      Julia says:

      Exactly. The part of the post that stood out for me was “You can’t make a woman get excited about something her brain chemically does not care about.” Because yeah, I make enough money to be comfortable, why would I negotiate for 10% more? If you’re making enough money, negotiating for more is just a game. But time? I can get excited about getting more flexible time for myself, and like many women I have successfully negotiated the flexibility that actually improves my quality of life.

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    What an interesting thought about women being promoted to lead failing organizations. As I think back on my past 5 years, *every* woman promoted or hired (up) into a leadership role I know was in that situation. It may not have looked like it at the time, but as history unfolded, that’s how it turned out. Of the men I know who were promoted, some ended up leading failing orgs and some didn’t. My experience isn’t a big enough sample space to draw conclusions, but thanks for pointing out something that I can watch for as a potential pattern.

  4. harris497
    harris497 says:

    This is one time when I disagree more than I agree with your contrarian stirring of the pot. Today, one out of every three women around the world has been abused at some point in her life, most of them between the ages of 16-24. In my opinion, to tell any female not to stand up for herself in any context where a male would, is the equivalent of saying not to fight against or even report rape or sexual molestation. True, it causes less waves to not stir the pot so to speak, and there is some logic to “stooping to conquer” but to live by the premise that one must not even negotiate is not good advice.
    Men respect strength, we may not like women who exhibit strength because they threaten our fragile egos, but we respect them! And in the world, sometimes respect is what you go for because what is it worth if everyone likes you, but you do not like or respect yourself?

    • harris497
      harris497 says:

      Not to rip you apart, just to disagree with you. I believe that it is an extreme statement to say, “you will be fired if you negotiate as hard as a man does. Deal with it.” Sometimes, it’s not what you do but how you do it…
      I still love your writing, but here, I think you should use your smarts to tell women how to negotiate to get what a man would get… You know how, so stretch and reveal:)

  5. D
    D says:

    For what it’s worth, I just hired two developers fresh out of one of the code schools. One woman, one man, both around thirty. They were offered a salary in the sixties. The woman smartly came back and asked for an additional $5k to cover health insurance, which we don’t offer yet. We agreed to pay the extra $5k, but will roll it back if and when we offer insurance.

    So in that case at least negotiating worked for her.

      • Andrew
        Andrew says:

        Yeah, developers in a healthy market will not take kindly to salary reductions.

        The only way you’re getting a developer for $60k is because she’s fresh out of code school.

        The hardest part was getting her first coding job, which she now has.

        If she’s decent, an additional $10k (in addition to the $5k health insurance money) after 12 months would not be unreasonable. It might even be low.

        If she’s amazing, you might not be able to afford to keep her.

      • D
        D says:

        Fair question. She agreed to rebalancing the salary (or whatever you want to call it) when we offer benefits. But depending on when that happens it may be a moot point.

    • LL
      LL says:

      This theme keeps emerging – women are penalized less/not at all for negotiating for warm, nurturing benefits like health insurance, flex time, etc. It’s when they negotiate for straight-up cash that they start being perceived as ‘bitchy’ or ‘not a team player’.

      • D
        D says:

        Well, she only just started a month ago and I see no reason to use words like that to describe her. But she literally has the exact same training as the guy and is getting a higher salary than he is. I have no idea what either is paying for insurance.

    • GingerR
      GingerR says:

      Although coming back asking to have her health coverage is negotiating, I think it probably worked because it wasn’t perceived as negotiating, she was asking for an “expense” that had a reason beyond just “I’m worth this much more.”

  6. Jeannie
    Jeannie says:

    Penelope, you are telling the truth. Our choice is whether to acquiesce or push against the gender discrimination. I made the former choice when I was financially desperate. Now that I am more financially secure, I choose the latter.

  7. Sam
    Sam says:

    This logic – accept, don’t agitate – is faulty. It is the equivalent of: stay on the back of the bus. Rather than advocate for women to accept this, we would appreciate hearing how to manage unconscious biases and move past it. That is more effective career counseling. You seem to sense this flaw when you ask us not to criticize you.

  8. Jen
    Jen says:

    Hello. Do you have a source link for this statement? “…the US Department of Labor is considering making it illegal to ask salary history because it serves to perpetuate salary differentiations between men and women.” Thank you.

  9. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    For the last 5 years I have been training women engineers how to sell multi-million dollar projects to the ‘boys club’. I have loads of experience training women who project manage very large construction projects in a male dominated industry.
    So I guess I get to say something here.
    I believe that understanding of ‘negotiation’ that is used in the article is myopic. There is a fundamental assumption that we all know what ‘negotiation’ is all about and how it works. I would maintain that there is a very shallow understanding among people regarding the real dynamics of what ‘negotiation’ is and how it works.
    But let’s just keep this short and say this about it. ‘Negotiation’ as it exists in the world today, and the ways of it, are mostly predicated upon a masculine development of the tactics and execution of it. There is no mention in the article of there being two types of negotiation. There does exist a feminine type of negotiation in regards to business dealings and general money issues. I believe that Penelope has assumed that the masculine type of negotiation is the only one that exists and that it doesn’t work for women. Hey, thanks for pointing out the obvious, but where she is doing a dis-service, is that she then tells you that you can only lose and to ‘deal with it’. Too bad she is dishing such poor advice to all the smart women reading her work. I suppose she just doesn’t know that there are very powerful negotiation tools that are very natural for women to use that win almost all the time.
    I have personally coached many women through these strategies to winning very large business deals. In the end they always say to me…”I had no idea it could be so easy, it makes so much sense, WOW”.
    Women are exceptionally empowered, but if they feel restricted to male developed tools then they should just lay down and die like P says they should. Or as the stupid academic ‘testosterone’ argument goes maybe women just need to grow balls.
    On the other hand there are naturally occurring skills and abilities that women have and when employed work very very well. But I guess P really believes that it is a man’s world. Or at least that is what the ‘research’ shows. So sad.

      • Bernie
        Bernie says:

        Hi Sabrina,

        I’m a Sales Consultant serving technical professionals. My clients are typically accredited or licensed in a professional field. I train/coach them in sales and negotiations. The sales process at this level is called ‘consultative’, meaning a multi-stage selling process that is based upon the building of the communication between the buyer and seller.
        My personal history led me to this specific field. I have a condition known as hemochromatosis, where the body holds onto too much iron. The top symptom is lethargy. I was not diagnosed until I was around 35 years old. Its all under control now and all is well, but for the first 15 years of my working years I was simply unable to get up in the morning like everyone else without super-effort. This lead me to a situation where I was looking for a new job almost every 6 months. During this time I did not know that I had the condition. I just thought everyone else in the world had an amazing stamina and I just didn’t fit in.
        These days I have enormous amounts of energy and I use my experience to help others.
        I figure that I have been hired by an employer at least 20 times. I’ve been through selling myself a lot. That experience, in addition to 20+ years of professional sales makes up foundation of the coaching and training that I do.
        I jumped into the comments on this blog-post simply because I disagree with the dis-empowering concept that it promotes.
        One of my clients is a leading engineering firm in Toronto Canada. 80% of their professional engineers are women. The industry is an ‘old boys club’ if there has ever been one. Even so, I have been able to coach and teach these female engineers to not only hold their own, but to maintain a great deal of control over their negotiations and project management.
        Regarding the men women issue…here is an old saying, ‘the solution isn’t often found in the same area as the problem’. So it goes with the ‘money’ issue or negotiations. The answer to how to negotiate from a woman’s position has much less to do with the money and much more to do with a constellation of other influences.
        Hi Sabrina,

        I’m a Sales Consultant serving technical professionals. My clients are typically accredited or licensed in a professional field. I train/coach them in sales and negotiations. The sales process at this level is called ‘consultative’, meaning a multi-stage selling process that is based upon the building of the communication between the buyer and seller.
        My personal history led me to this specific field. I have a condition known as hemochromatosis, where the body holds onto too much iron. The top symptom is lethargy. I was not diagnosed until I was around 35 years old. Its all under control now and all is well, but for the first 15 years of my working years I was simply unable to get up in the morning like everyone else without super-effort. This lead me to a situation where I was looking for a new job almost every 6 months. During this time I did not know that I had the condition. I just thought everyone else in the world had an amazing stamina and I just didn’t fit in. I learned a lot about selling oneself and what businesses are really interested in. It is not just about saving money. They may want you to think that, but it is not true.
        Well, these days I have enormous amounts of energy and I use my experience to help others.
        I figure that I have been hired by an employer at least 20 times. I’ve been through selling myself a lot. In addition to that experience I have 20+ years of professional selling which makes up the foundation of the coaching and training that I do.
        I jumped into the comments on this blog-post simply because I disagree with the dis-empowering concept that it promotes.
        One of my clients is a leading engineering firm in Toronto Canada. 80% of their professional engineers are women. The industry is an ‘old boys club’ if there has ever been one. Even so, I have been able to coach and teach these female engineers to not only hold their own, but to maintain a great deal of control over their negotiations and project management.
        Regarding the men women issue…here is an old saying, ‘the solution isn’t often found in the same area as the problem’. So it goes with the ‘money’ issue or negotiations. The answer to how to negotiate from a woman’s position has much less to do with the money and much more to do with a constellation of other influences.
        So sure, a man may be able to push his way to the front of the line and people will accept that. But the truth of the matter is that ‘being pushy’ is mainly a short sighted guy thing, while on the other hand a feminine way would have to do with uncovering the deeper issues that are at play. Discovering and working into the deeper issues is not a skill that men are as good at. As a result an approach that embraces these considerations has the upper hand on short sighted ‘power tactics’.
        Hope this helps.

        • Lauren Bishop
          Lauren Bishop says:

          Interesting! I am still curious to know more about specific examples of how to use what you are talking about in salary negotiations as a woman. I am not in a technical or sales field, but I am curious if you can offer us some general feedback about how to best negotiate salary as a woman.

          Thank you for all you’ve shared so far!

          • Bernie
            Bernie says:

            Okay. Lauren, this is where some people get it and some don’t. The real question to getting more money when getting hired is knowing exactly what they want to hire. By ‘what’ I mean, what are they looking for, what is their pain. Anyone can figure out that a receptionist needs to have a good phone manner, needs to be presentable, and has the basic skills, for example. But what if the outgoing receptionist who is leaving the position that you are applying for has been fired for something like snorting coke in the bathroom. This is a pain and an embarrassment for the person doing the hiring, so if you say you are drug-free then you have not only responded to the mundane requirements of the position but have dynamically positioned yourself remove a specific pain of the employer. Here is the point. People pay money to have pain removed. No one can refute this fact. If you can discover the pain and provide a valid solution to the removal of it then you get more money. Plane and simple. And there is more. Every one and every business has pains. The tricky part is to find out how to discover what the pain actually is. That is what I train people how to do. Hope this helps.

          • Lauren Bishop
            Lauren Bishop says:

            Yes, it does make perfect sense. I often do that intuitively. I will ask questions in the interviews like, “Without regards to feasibility or the “how,” what would you like to see improve with this new hire?” In my current job, they said “X, Y & Z” at the first interview. So I brought a 2-page prepared memo to the second interview on how I would address X if I were hired. I presented it just as if I were already working there. I showed them I could make their pain go away.

            And I always negotiate for something, whether it’s salary, extra vacation, flex time, or all three! Generally it’s well received or at least neutrally received, and so far I have always gotten an increased offer upon negotiating.

            But I’ve never wanted a position so desperately that I am gutted if something goes sour and in the process I end up not taking the job… I don’t like starting off on a weird foot. So if things go even slightly weird, I usually take it as a sign that it’s not a perfect fit, and I stay where I am. That method has served me relatively well so far.

        • Valerie
          Valerie says:


          If you ever feel compelled to write your own blog or write a book, please let me know. Your history and experience is fascinating, as well as the advice you’ve given here. I’d love to learn more.

  10. Tara
    Tara says:

    I think it’s interesting that someone said the woman may not be “liked” but will be “respected” for negotiating. The research says that for women, unfortunately, we need to be liked in order to rise up the ladder. Of course we want and deserve respect, but the truth is that if we want to be promoted we need to be liked as well. Penelope isn’t saying that it’s great that negotiating may have consequences for women. She’s saying that this is the world we live in. We all can and should fight like hell to change the status quo, but I’ll tell you what I tell my clients. What’s the goal here? To be right or to get results. I want to get results and I’m willing to play the female hand I’ve been dealt to achieve that instead of being upset because someone pointed out the truth of a situation. I have an offer coming in for a new position tomorrow. Will I negotiate? Probably. But will I be extremely aware of my language, tone, and general demeanor? Absolutely. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      To be clear, men need to be liked in order to climb up the ladder as well. Being liked is an important part of success. But women need to follow different rules than men in order to be likable in business.


  11. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    I always negotiated my salary but never got the big one. Nevertheless, I feel grateful because I learn a lot from my work, my jobs have sane office hours, and office mates have always been helpful. I manage to save or invest more from my smaller salary than others with a bigger paycheck because I do not have debt.

  12. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Thanks Penelope. I love your writing and enjoy mulling over every new post that you put out there. A couple of comments:

    1) I just finished negotiating compensation for a new job. I got my asking price and a title upgrade by having the conversation with the CEO in a gentle and non-threatening way, which I believe worked well for me, and is generally what’s recommended for women to be perceived as both likable and competent.

    2) You quoted the New Yorker article, but left out their concluding paragraph, which negates the crux of your post:

    “No social-science study can tell a woman what to do in any particular negotiation. The variables are too complex. And to suggest that women should be wary of asserting themselves in the workplace would be like telling Rosa Parks not to sit in the front of a bus. But, for now, any negotiation in which gender is involved remains a careful, precarious balancing act.”

    Here’s a great HBR post on taking the softer route when negotiating:

  13. Amy P.
    Amy P. says:

    Great article. Please note I don’t think Penelope is saying not to negotiate. I think she is just pointing out the differences of treatment for the sexes in the work place.
    And I have been punished in the work place (fashion industry) for being a squeaky wheel. I am not sure I would of been labeled a ‘trouble maker’ if I was a man.

  14. Allison
    Allison says:

    I’ve read Babcock’s book that you link to several times and usually give a copy to female interns. The message that “women should not bother negotiating salary” is not at all the message I took from it. The research certainly shows that it is trickier, and that women may be better served with different negotiation styles than men, but the sensational headline that women should not bother is extremely misleading in regards to her actual arguments and research in the book.
    Because my raises are percentage-based, after only 4 years, the $5000 increase that I negotiated at my current job accounts for over $1000 more raises than if I hadn’t negotiated and accepted the (pretty good) initial offer.

  15. Lee
    Lee says:

    I think this is a great article that should really provoke some thought in regards to the negotiating process. I’m not sure I believe that women shouldn’t negotiate at all, but rather be much more careful about the WAY they negotiate. One thing I tend to notice (I’m a recruiter) is that men are much more upfront about their expectations from the beginning. A recruiter and/or hiring manager expects some negotiating, especially if they offer something lower than what the candidate indicated during the interview process- but if they can save some money, then why not try? I believe (some) women are more afraid of pricing themselves out of a job- especially if it’s one that they’re especially interested in. I think the bottom line is to do your research on the company you’re interviewing with and know what to expect- does the company pay fair market value? Do they lowball? Are they financially healthy? Make your expectations clear from the very beginning and don’t compromise, unless there significant benefits for doing so.

  16. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I’m enjoying reading the replies to this unique perspective from someone who has not had a full time corporate job in how many years? Penelope continues to assume that her perspective and the “research” quoted is relevant for those of us working in full time, corporate jobs who have negotiated salaries successfully and manage to balance our professional and personal lives.
    Rather than assume that it can’t be done and that women are less successful than men, why not employ strategies that work, as several women on this post have suggested.
    I’m thankful there have been women before me and women who will follow who are able to utilize their strengths to improve salaries, work conditions and the overall organizational culture.
    Thank goodness we don’t all drink the kool aid P seems to be selling: stay home, home school your children, pretend your personality style is the driver of your life and discourage other women from being bold and trying new things.
    This blog used to be informative and relevant. I find that I read it now to see what bizarre statements are being made now that unfortunately, many women will read and blindly follow.
    To the person who said P is not suggesting women not negotiate, see the article title.

  17. Katherine Turner
    Katherine Turner says:

    yeah – i gotta agree with the negativity that comes back when negotiating for a higher salary. two out of five of my last jobs were for government jobs and salaries were determined by an algorithm based on education and experience – no negotiation was allowed – it was take it or leave it.

    for the other three i did ask for more money. in a very polite way, to see what the response would be, deciding to negotiate a little more firmly if needed, or to accept without disappointment if they said no.

    in all three instances, they (one male, two female) acted totally thrown off guard, and then rebounded with what seemed like scorn – as in how dare i ask for more money. the hostility totally changed the energy of the interaction from one of celebration, congratulations to intense coldness. All three said they’d have to get back with me.

    When they did, all three of them gave me the salary increase I asked for, but they didn’t seem happy about it. it seemed to have changed the tone permanently even though the increased salary was still in the middle range of what the jobs and my experience/education was worth. if i would have taken what they were offering, it would have been on the low end of the scale. and i knew that i wouldn’t have stayed in a job with a low salary for long . . .

  18. Cate
    Cate says:

    You will not be fired if you report sexual harassment.

    Woman (young saleswoman) harassed by killer salesperson (male) at our company. Multiple previous issues overlooked b/c he brought in so much money. She reported the harassment, he was asked to leave. It was the final straw. She stayed with the company for several years after that and moved on (happily for her, sadly for us) to a better job several years later. She is still on good terms with our male boss (not the harasser).

    Report it!

  19. Kate
    Kate says:

    There are only a few blogs where reading the comments is actually more informative than the article. So kudos to Penelope for achieving that. Being controversial is necessary to fire the debate and you are doing a great job in pinpointing some real problems that indeed can be looked at from different angles. That’s why I love reading your blog (even though I can’t relate sometimes because it does sound very ‘American’ to me, being from Belgium).

  20. redrock
    redrock says:

    if you don’t negotiate at all for salary how can your future employer expect you to negotiate all aspects of your professional life?

  21. valerie
    valerie says:

    I think the assumption that I most disagree with is that in order to negotiate salary effectively we have to be jerks about it. Rather than not do it, we should use our strengths to be better negotiators than men. Unless companies put in policies that do not allow for any salary negotiation, it is silly to think we should just let men keep doing it and wait around for a nice boss with a daughter. A while ago, I had the opportunity to take a job overseas. I really wanted the job, but if I had accepted the first, frankly laughable offer they gave me, I would have spent three years living in London spending my own life savings to enjoy it. Instead, I negotiated fairly, with data, and got not just a better starting salary, but a boss that respected me for asking.

    • A
      A says:

      I completely agree with Valerie – for my last three jobs (project management for engineering companies, and I was under 30) I negotiated my salary every single time. I think it matters more how you ask than whether you ask. Every single time I was aware of what I was worth/what my peers were making, and asked within the bounds of what I felt was fair. Out of the three times, twice I felt that asking for more was a stretch, and I didn’t end up getting anything better but was happy I had asked (these were male bosses for what it’s worth, and I had a great relationship with them). The other time I got what seemed to me to be a laughable offer, and my shocked response (and asking for what I wanted – 15% more than what I was making) was viewed super favorably – my female boss actually told me she was waiting for me to give the counter offer (and she respected me more for it). I still think that overall men make more than women…but I wholeheartedly believe in negotiating! (ps> just coached my friend into negotiating more as well…). But it is curious that my negotiations so far only worked with a female boss…

  22. Joan
    Joan says:

    I did learn alot from the comments btuI disagree being penalized is limited to women., It could be both way.


  23. Kelly Magowan
    Kelly Magowan says:

    Wow all I can say is what crazy talk.

    While women may sometimes be penalized for negotiating – we are more often penalised for not negotiating. I would prefer to take my chances and negotiate my salary thanks. Think about the alternative, the average Australian woman has to work an additional 2 months a year to achieve the same salary as the average Australian man! Who wants to be working for less than their male counterparts?

    The article talks about having power – this is not likely if you are not prepared to stand up for yourself and to be valued and treated fairly. This is called being a push over.

    If the prospective or current employer does not value me and my contribution I will find one that does. And there are employers who do.

    I work with female clients who have successfully had salary negotiation conversations with positive outcomes. They have approached the negotiations professionally and the results have been good.

    The suggestion is to find a boss with a daughter! Very odd indeed. All male bosses have females in their lives – mothers, sisters, daughters etc. Not sure how this has benefited female workers and their pay packets!

    The more women negotiate the more it becomes the norm. If we don’t take a stance and work together to bring about change, pay inequality will continue.

    Articles like this are very dis-empowering.

  24. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This is fascinating. All the jobs where I’ve had successful negotiations are the ones where I’ve been the best cultural fit, including my current very “boys club” job. The two that rejected my negotiations turned out to be sexist assholes.

  25. Jay
    Jay says:

    Lots of commenters are missing the point of this post.

    Penelope isn’t really saying “women shouldn’t negotiate at all, ever”. That’s the title, but I don’t think it’s the salient point.

    What she REALLY seems to be saying to women is: “if you DO decide to negotiate, you need to do it differently, in recognition of how women are perceived at work”.

    It’s perfectly fair to argue that it *shouldn’t* be necessary for women to negotiate any differently than men. Of course it shouldn’t! That’s non-controversial.

    But the data suggest that it definitely *is* necessary.

    Penelope didn’t cause that, nor is she defending it or advocating its continuation. She’s offering practical ways to deal with it.

    This comment thread is like a scrollable case study in shooting the messenger.

    • mh
      mh says:

      “This comment thread is like a scrollable case study in shooting the messenger”

      That’s excellent. Thanks for writing that.

  26. E
    E says:

    I read this article this morning and thought it was boring. Duh, of course women are perceived as bitchy when we negotiate, how is this even on P’s blog? Then I saw the insane comments on LinkedIn and apparently I guess this is not common knowledge? What planet is everyone living on?

    Let me know what companies and office environments you all are working at where aggresively negotiating a salary as a woman has no negative consequences. You guys are nuts.

    A hiring manager literally laughed in my face when I was 24 and asked for appropriate compensation. (Salary history was 38,000 from my first entry-level job, market rate for the role was 50,000.) She asked: who did I think I was that I would ask for that much more money? I cried a lot. In her office. Immediately when she said that to me. Obviously I did not get that job.

    That was my first salary negotiation as a 24-year-old woman. I have had a lot in 10 years since, and they are all pretty much the same, minus the crying. I have gotten really, really good at it though, made a ton of money, and I have even tried being aggressive for shits and giggles and it still does not work.

    I am guessing a lot of these “don’t listen to her” comments are from women making less than six figures or else women who are probably not very self-aware and don’t pay attention to if they are liked in the office.

    • Michele
      Michele says:

      Agree! I am an NT and thought how I would maneuver my way to the top immediately and in fact knew this stuff already. Penelope is stating how it goes, so learn how to play The Game. Don’t get hurt feelings over it people.

  27. Yuan
    Yuan says:

    I totally agree with you, Penelope, that women are more penalized than men when negotiating, but your language is too extreme. Women are not always penalized, and as such, there are tactics women should use different from men when negotiating. But women should always negotiate, just that the how is different. Plus, the person you piss off when negotiating is often not the same as the person you will be working with and determining your promotion. Your bosses, in general, don’t care about how much you make until you get to the really top level.

    Here’s a video on salary negotiation for women:

  28. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    I have been recruiting for ten years. I hire senior level staff. I have both women and men negotiate offers all of the time. I am not the only one who experiences this as well. I do believe there is a right way and a wrong way to negotiate. I’ve seen women be brash and come in seeming to be fighting the difficult fight they expect and they can come off a bit bitchy and harsh, but the men do the same. There are plenty of women who can negotiate without coming across this way. It’s all in how you ask. I have also negotiated my salary at every opportunity for it. I’ve always gotten it and have been with my current company as a high potential for 9 years. There is a right way and a wrong way for both men and women. The biggest issue with the wage gap is that so many women in general simply do not ask. You are keeping them there.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      This is interesting. I negotiate everything as well. I’m not currently working, but in other contexts there isn’t a deal I do where I say yes to the first number.

      I think it has a lot to do with knowing value and having the knowledge to act on it.

  29. jessica
    jessica says:

    -Women do not stand up for themselves when they negotiate, because the best way to stand up for women is to get power, and you can’t get power if you keep getting fired because of a bad cultural fit.-

    Sorry, but this woman sounds like an idiot. I’m pretty sure any good negotiation is a win/win…not win/lose power play. Perceived power only gets someone so far.

  30. Marsha
    Marsha says:

    I took a seminar on negotiating a few years ago and after that tried to negotiate a new job salary. I felt clumsy and awkward. I didn’t win. The male owners of the firm won. But a couple years later when I felt that they had baited me with certain incentives that they did not hold to, I struck out on my own. Had I not tried to negotiate in the beginning and had I not at least once after that allowed my feminine, demure self to feel brash in expressing my dissatisfaction, I might have been more prone to quietly forgive the breach. Still, the discomfort of going through that and fracturing some business relationships, sometimes makes me question if it was worth it. I think it was, but my brain chemistry is not supportive.

  31. Amanda Gary
    Amanda Gary says:

    Though I don’t necessarily agree with this post, (I just got offered a position and negotiated a higher salary) I find it so comical/annoying how people belittle you and your character simply because they do not agree with your stance.

    I come to your page because I feel that your facts are always somehow backed up. I also come to your page because you’re honest and strong in your opinion even though it may not be the most popular. I know that I will find YOUR opinion on a topic…not the opinion of a paid advertiser. I find it refreshing

    Keep on, P!

  32. ane
    ane says:

    in my last corporate job at a fortune 500 company (before i started my own business), i negotiated a 20% increase in the salary initially offered. the conversation took all of 5 minutes. here’s how i did it:

    1 – i exuded confidence (and competence) throughout the entire recruiting and interviewing process. first i was in a position of power because the company approach me. second, i knew my stuff. third, everyone i came in contact could see that i knew my stuff. i had the right attitude, skills, etc. and wasn’t shy in communicating that.

    2 – as a result of #1, it started to become clear moving through the process that i was the front runner for the role. the hiring manager wanted me and didn’t even try to hide it. when you are good it seems people lose the desire to play games because the tables are turned. it’s all about them pitching to you (instead of the other way around).

    3 – when hr approached me with the offer they already knew i would negotiate (they basically said here’s our offer now let’s see where we go from there)! they knew how i carried myself in the interview process and that i probably did my research on what i could command in terms of compensation. they also knew i had impressed everyone and that the hiring manager wouldn’t take no for an answer. the job of a hr director is to get the best possible candidate at the lowest possible rate but not if it jeopardizes getting the person they really want.

    at the end of the day we (as women) need to stop perpetuating these gender differences. as a person whose success has been almost entirely build on merit (i don’t have any fancy connections or anything like that) it all comes down to being the best and not being afraid to show that you are.

    you would be a fool not to negotiate your salary IF (AND ONLY IF) you’ve done your due diligence and can clearly justify why you desire X instead of Y.

    don’t let provocative blog posts such as this (that are clearly designed to rile you up) lead you astray!

  33. G
    G says:

    I’ve been reading Penelope’s blog posts for a long time. She is a very talented provocateur, so she basically knows how to write a controversial blog post.

    I see not evidence that Penelope is good at much else, or has contributed valuable information in any of her other stated fields of expertise.

    But if you want to know how to construct a vibrant blog with lots of comments, then you should by all means study what she does here.

      • G
        G says:

        Hi E,

        Perhaps you misunderstood me. There’s quite a lot of value in a blog with millions of readers, and Penelope is GOOD at BLOGGING.

        What she hasn’t proven, as far as I can tell, is that she’s highly competent at anything else, such as salary negotiating or career building within Fortune 500 companies or creating financial stability or many of the other topics that she seems to advise people on.

        It’s like a great parlor trick.

        She’s getting you to watch what the one hand is doing so you miss the real trick. The real trick, in this case, is that Penelope is very highly skilled at blogging.

        However, if she were to admit this, than why would anyone read her blog posts, which at least on the surface, pretend to be about career advise and the like?

      • lisa
        lisa says:

        Sure, if you’re only concerned about numbers and how many people reply to your comments; very useful. If you care about providing real world, practical advice to women who read your blog; not so much.
        If women follow the advice she gives, they minimize their chances of making more money. You don’t have to be 80 to figure that out.
        Fortunately, the comment about learning how to write controversial blog posts is right on track. Let’s just be sure we all recognize this for what it is and nothing else.
        Granted, I’ve learned much from the comments section, which is often the case.

  34. G
    G says:

    Exactly, Lisa. I find it a little sad that there may be some people (I have a feeling not too many) who actually try and apply Penelope’s misguided and oftentimes intentionally simplistic or even silly ideas on marriage, family, business and gender politics to their own lives.

    Penelope, whether she is serious or not (and I’m not so sure she is), most certainly is first and foremost a pot-stirrer of the highest order on the level of Ann Coulter.

    And I would no more take Penelope seriously on her business advice than I would take Coulter seriously on her politics, much of which I suspect Coulter herself doesn’t believe.

    But in both cases, the people in question have very savvy skills and could be someone to study, if you study the reality rather than the presented fiction.

  35. Kat
    Kat says:

    One way to not get penalized for negotiating is when you are prepared to leave. The worst case scenario is – that you leave. Which is what you want. If they respond to what you negotiate, it’s still what you want.

  36. INTJ Lady
    INTJ Lady says:

    Negotiating was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. It totally got me into 6 figures in much less time than it would have taken otherwise. The key is strategic negotiation. Negotiate when you know you have a superior position, there are ways to determine that before you even get the offer.

  37. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Considering that Linda Babcock followed up the book you linked to at the beginning of this piece (Women Don’t Ask – 2007) with an EXPLICIT how-to-negotiate guide for women (Ask For It – 2009), I do not think her conclusion was that women shouldn’t negotiate. Her conclusion was that we have to find ways to do it that don’t penalize us in the workplace.

    Her second book is great, by the way. Highly recommended. It’s gotten me two raises.

  38. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    My work experiences matches exactly what you are saying here.

    Men are strongly invested in seeing a woman in a certain way. I think this goes to evolution. Women are always mothers in a mans eyes.

    Just as in the sexual marketplace I make men compete for me but instead of sex it is my skill set and the value I bring or potentially bring that they compete with others to buy or keep.

    I negotiate by having a better opportunity already in place and I surreptitiously allow my boss to find out through the grapevine, but never directly through me.

    I do everything from the shadows.

    Learning when to be visible or invisible and how, is the key in my opinion.

    It is not that I do not negotiate but only that it does not appear that I am. It is hidden and circular.

  39. Dove
    Dove says:

    I’m a woman and I always negotiate my salary – no big thing – when I get an offer I make a higher counteroffer – then I get a bit more. This is the best time to use the power of negotiation.

    Negotiate salary first and then negotiate benefits. If you don’t ask, you leave money on the table. Employers expect it anyways.

    Then I make it a habit to negotiate for promotions every two years. All they can say is “no” (which would be good to know why – ) or they promote me.

    It is part of living a good life – regular work – no big deal – women, men, dogs and cats negotiate every day –

    I would recommend the video – The Art of Conflict Management – http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/art-of-conflict-management-achieving-solutions-for-life-work-and-beyond.html

  40. ruo
    ruo says:

    As an NT person, I think the big factor into negotiating is understanding who I’m talking to get what i want.

    When I work for an NT boss, I had no problems getting the raise I asked for. Because our goals are so similarly aligned. It happened with a 10 second phone call and a yes.

    When I was working for an SJ boss, getting the raise I wanted meant I had to abide by his rules and his goals.. it was far too much for me to handle. I.e. he wanted to socialize all day long. Getting the work done as lesser importance than spreading the good image of his team. I thought I could do it, get the raise and then leave.. but didn’t feel like wasting my time with someone who cant further strengthen my skills which was just being efficient in solving technical problems. Bad fit. I left.

    I think if women wants to play the salary negotiation game, they’d have to understand themselves first, their value and their skills much better. If numbers are the only discussion points in a negotiation table, then you lose before it even starts.

  41. Jean
    Jean says:

    “I’m not creating reality.”
    Metaphysics demonstrates otherwise. Whether or not you realize it, you are creating reality with your thoughts and the thoughts you are perpetuating in others. Of course this system is unfair & we have to approach what is currently happening, but to enable it by simply fitting in and following the culture that exists you are becoming a part of the machine to perpetuate it. What we need are people willing to engage in revolutionary behavior when we recognize that there’s something wrong with the system we are in. That’s what you did, right?

  42. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    The research Penelope is citing is nearly a decade old — it’s from Dr. Babcock’s first book, Women Don’t Ask — and its sample size was conveniently small. (Several dozen graduate students, perhaps?)

    When will someone conduct a larger, more relevant survey representative of the female workforce?

    (Hence why I’m publicly pointing out that this research is woefully outdated in our digital age.)

  43. Alyssa
    Alyssa says:

    This survey must be true to some extent but you can’t trust it to be 100% true. Women often face more challenges than men in the society. They need to be more competent and must be capable of negotiating in such a way that the interviewer won’t be offended. But they need to ask for increase in salary at times when they feel that they deserve more. They can’t accept each and every term.

  44. Starrie
    Starrie says:


    Your advice on negotiating has been to not give salary requirements first when interviewing. I took this advice, and then got an offer for $10,000 less than my current salary. I have no choice but to negotiate.. otherwise I have to just walk away from the offer. Is that what you are recommending?

  45. W
    W says:


    I recently tried negotiating with Citibank for an AVP position. The counter offer I made was $3,000 more and they decided to withdraw the offer, without giving me a chance to even accept the initial offer they made. The hiring manager ( a woman) later confirmed she doesn’t have another candidate and is still looking.

    It made me left wondering what kind of tyrannical place it must be to penalize someone for negotiating. If they were not sure of my candidature why made the offer in the first place. And if they were sure of my candidature to make an offer in the first place, why showcase this brash decision without even thinking how it reflects on the organization.

  46. Gregory
    Gregory says:

    I can imagine that a post like this rises quite a bit of emotion. Quite interesting point that women do not get as excited about winning as men do. Well, all I can say that my experience of this is quite the opposite. I do not see the connection between testosterone and the will to win. So an athlete woman that takes testosterone wants to win more than a natrual athlete woman?

Comments are closed.