Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson
Associate Director: In House

Articles From the Team

Women act more like men when they have to ask women for money

A recent article in Quartz magazine highlights an interesting study on the negotiating tactics employed by men and women: when negotiating with their own sex and the opposite sex.  While the study was limited in numbers and not based on salary negotiations – it was based on a Spanish games show of all things – the researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands discovered some interesting behaviours.

The premise of the game show was that male and female contestants were given a variable (and increasing) amount of money and a basic trivia question to answer.  The contestant had to find a stranger (responder) to supply the answer but at a (negotiated) price. Through a bargaining process where the contestant and responder made offers and demands, the two agree on a deal and split the prize money (assuming they answered the trivia questions correctly). Neither contestant nor stranger was allowed to keep any money if the answer was wrong.

While the research sample was relatively small (400+ interactions), the researchers pointed out that the negotiations were unstructured (similar to most salary discussions), and the game helped to avoid the pitfalls of field studies where the interaction isn’t visible.  In addition, the cash incentive was large enough to motivate the players, which is not the case in lab decision games.

The results of the study: Women seem to adjust their ask when the man has the power

Looking at the interactions of male/male, male/female and female/female contestants and responders, the researchers found that: “male responders negotiating against female contestants captured more of the pie than any others, getting around 2% more than responders in any other matching.”

However, the far more significant difference was seen when women answered the trivia question for male contestants. These women took home 16% less than responders in any other pairing. Importantly, their analysis found “clear evidence” that male proposers (i.e. those in the power position) were not making lower offers to women, nor were female proposers favouring their own gender.

The gap was explained by female responders asking for less money when facing a male proposer. When women negotiated with other women in the power position, the authors explain, they “behaved in exactly the same way as men did.”

So how does a Spanish game show link into theories about salary negotiations and the difference between male/female interactions?

Common wisdom is that women are particularly challenged by conversations about money because of gendered ideas about the way women ought to behave, and the fear of looking aggressive or self-interested.

While there’s data to support the claim that women simply don’t seek raises as often as men do, research also suggests that women ask for raises at the same rate as their male counterparts, but simply aren’t as successful in their bidding.

With the majority of senior roles still held by men, the article writer suggests that promoting more women into leadership positions could help with the pay gap. Assuming the research results and behaviour traits are portable to salary negotiations, placing more women in leadership roles should see more female/female pay rise negotiations and more women asking for and receiving the same salary as men.

Further reading: Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) gender findings

Women make up 48% of all lawyers in law firms and 47% of the UK workforce. Regarding all other staff working in law firms, women make up three-quarters of the workforce. There’s been little change since 2014 in either group.

Differences become more apparent when we look at seniority. In 2017, women made up 59% of non-partner solicitors compared to just 33% of partners (up from 31% in 2014).

The difference is greater still in the largest firms (50 plus partners), where 29% of partners are female.

There are small but welcome signs of progress in the largest firms; however, as the gap’s narrowed over the past four years, with the proportion of female partners rising steadily from 25% in 2014 to 29% in 2017.

There is a greater proportion of female lawyers in mid-size firms – women make up 54% of all lawyers in firms with six to nine partners and those with 10 to 50 partners. There is a smaller proportion of female lawyers in one-partner firms (44%).

Looking specifically at solicitors in these mid-size firms, the highest proportion of female solicitors is in firms that have six to nine partners. In these firms, two thirds (66%) of solicitors are female and this has grown over the past four years (from 60% in 2014).

Over a third of the partners in these mid-size firms are female (37%) and this has also grown from 31% in 2014.

An additional gender option was added in 2017, for those who identify other than as male or female. Less than 1% (under one hundred) of all lawyers chose this response and because the numbers are so small we’ve not added this category into the law firm diversity tool.

There are variations by the type of legal work undertaken by firms. Overall women make up 48% of all lawyers, but 52% of lawyers in firms that mainly do private client work are female, whereas 40% of lawyers in firms that mainly do criminal work are female.

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