Negotiating Gender Roles: Gender Differences in Assertive Negotiating
Are Mediated by Women’s Fear of Backlash and Attenuated When
Negotiating on Behalf of Others
Emily T. Amanatullah
University of Texas at Austin Michael W. Morris
The authors propose that gender differences in negotiations reflect women’s contextually contingent
impression management strategies. They argue that the same behavior, bargaining assertively, is
construed as congruent with female gender roles in some contexts yet incongruent in other contexts.
Further, women take this contextual variation into account, adjusting their bargaining behavior to manage
social impressions. A particularly important contextual variable is advocacy—whether bargaining on
one’s own behalf versus on another’s behalf. In self-advocacy contexts, women anticipate that asser-
tiveness will evoke incongruity evaluations, negative attributions, and subsequent “backlash”; hence,
women hedge their assertiveness, using fewer competing tactics and obtaining lower outcomes. However,
in other-advocacy contexts, women achieve better outcomes as they do not expect incongruity evalua-
tions or engage in hedging. In a controlled laboratory experiment, the authors found that gender interacts
with advocacy context in this way to determine negotiation style and outcomes. Additionally, process
measures of anticipated attributions and backlash statistically mediated this interaction effect.
Keywords: gender, negotiation, backlash, advocacy
Negotiations are among the most materially consequential of
social interactions, so understanding how gender influences nego-
tiations is crucial to establishing fairness and equity in the work-
place. Gender research on social behavior began with trait ap-
proaches focused on women’s internal characteristics (Maccoby &
Jacklin, 1974) and evolved to social interactional approaches fo-
cused on how women are affected by observers’ descriptive ste-
reotypes and injunctive gender norms (Eagly & Karau, 2002).
Recently several researchers have synthesized these traditions and
turned the focus back inside the actor, highlighting the strategies
women use to respond to the signals and sanctions from their
social environment (e.g., Rudman & Fairchild, 2004; Vescio,
Gervais, Snyder, & Hoover, 2005). We follow in this recent
tradition by proposing that women are aware of gender-role in-
junctions and adjust their bargaining behavior to avoid role-
violation backlash. Specifically, we argue that such impression
management strategies and the gender effects that result from them
depend on the context of the negotiation.
Past research suggests that women fare worse than men in
competitive negotiations, particularly salary negotiations, yet there
is little research testing theories of how gender influences outcome
differences. To derive predictions about how gender influences
negotiations, we drew from research on perceived incongruity
between gender and organizational roles (Eagly & Karau, 2002)
and research on the social disapproval or backlash suffered by
women who deviate from gender role expectations (Rudman,
1998). In the past, researchers have examined gender role incon-
gruity in cases in which women display stereotypically masculine
behaviors, such as aggressive self-promotion (Rudman, 1998;
Rudman & Glick, 2001), or expertise in stereotypically masculine
domains, such as automobile engines (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004),
house construction (Vescio, Snyder, & Butz, 2003), or war games
(Vescio et al., 2005).
We propose that gender role incongruity works differently in
cases like bargaining that are not inherently masculine domains.
This difference is crucial because it suggests that there are ways
that women can bargain assertively and successfully without in-
curring backlash. Many instances of assertive bargaining come
across as stereotypically masculine, such as when a junior manager
marches into the boss’s office and demands a raise. Yet other
instances are more readily associated with feminine roles, such as
haggling with a butcher or defending one’s falsely accused child.
We argue that a fundamental structural issue in negotiations—
whom the bargainer advocates for—is pivotal in determining how
assertive bargaining is interpreted. When a woman negotiates on
behalf of herself, assertive bargaining is encoded as incongruent
Emily T. Amanatullah, McCombs School of Business, University of
Texas at Austin; Michael W. Morris, Graduate School of Business, Co-
This article is based on a 2007 dissertation by Emily T. Amanatullah at
Columbia University under supervision of Michael W. Morris, which was
recognized with the James McKeen Cattell Outstanding Dissertation
Award from the Psychology Section of the New York Academy of Sci-
ences, with the Sage Dissertation Award from the Gender and Diversity in
Organizations Division of the Academy of Management, and as a finalist
for the Society for Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award.
We thank Hannah Riley Bowles, Laura Kray, and Laurie Rudman for
comments on earlier versions and thank Teresa Vescio for constructive
assistance in refining the article.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Emily
T. Amanatullah, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, 1
University Station, B6300, Austin, TX 78712-0210. E-mail: emily
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology © 2010 American Psychological Association
2010, Vol. 98, No. 2, 256–267 0022-3514/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0017094
with communal prescriptions of the feminine role. When a woman
negotiates on behalf of others, it is encoded as congruent with
communal femininity. Preliminary research shows perceivers en-
gage in both social and financial backlash against self-advocating
women but not against other-advocating women (Amanatullah &
Tinsley, 2009). Thus, we expect that situations of other-advocacy
free women from fears of backlash and enable assertive bargaining
leading to favorable outcomes.
Accounts of Gender Differences
We offer an alternative to past explanations about when and
why women fail to assert themselves as much as men when
negotiating. Most research has centered on internal traits (that men
and women are inherently different) or external situations (that
men and women are treated differently). We argue instead that
women’s behavior may reflect their tactics in a meta-negotiation—
their negotiation of the social sanctioning that women face for
assertiveness in particular kinds of negotiation contexts as a result
of gender roles.
In early gender research, many studies focused on identifying
inherent personality differences between men and women. Mac-
coby and Jacklin (1974) proposed that men are generally more
aggressive in their social behavior (e.g., Eagly & Steffen, 1986;
Feingold, 1994; Hyde, 1984). Such gender differences in person-
ality traits could reflect nature, such as genes or hormones
(Eysenck, 1992; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987; Zuckerman, 1991), or
nurture, such as socialization into different values (Eagly, 1987;
Eagly & Wood, 1991).
Two gender-linked personality traits that are claimed to influ-
ence negotiations are entitlement and self-construal. Past research
has shown that with regard to salaries specifically, women indeed
felt less entitled compared with men (Callahan-Levy & Messe,
1979), likely due to patterns of socialization. Further, this lack of
entitlement is self-centered, not necessarily extending to similar
others (Major, McFarlin, & Gagnon, 1984). This translates into
lowered expectations, which in turn negatively affects actual sal-
aries (Major, Vanderslice, & McFarlin, 1984).
Alternatively, some researchers hypothesize that women de-
velop primarily interdependent self-construals (seeking to affirm
their identities as members of a collective by attending to others)
and men primarily independent self-construals (seeking to main-
tain their independence from others by attending to the self; e.g.,
Cross & Madson, 1997). Therefore, at the bargaining table, women
may be less motivated to advance their own self-interest for the
sake of maintaining a positive relationship with their counterpart.
Social Cues and Sanctions
An alternate perspective on gender affecting social behavior
focuses on differences between how women and men are treated
by and subsequently respond to their social environment. Cues to
a stereotype can cause targets to behave in ways that fulfill the
stereotype (e.g., Steele, 1998). Subtle cues to the stereotype that
women are unassertive negotiators lead women to behave unas-
sertively (Kray, Thompson, & Galinsky, 2001), while blatant cues
can produce reactance (Kray, Reb, Galinsky, & Thompson, 2004).
Thus, behavioral differences between men and women may not
reflect inherent differences in personality but may stem from their
experienced social environment, which is shaped by pervasive
Other accounts go beyond stereotypes to posit gender roles
(Eagly, 1987). Female gender roles are centered on the expectation
of communal behaviors, such as nurturing, helping, and expressing
concern for one’s ingroup and significant others (Broverman,
Vogel, Broverman, Clarkson, & Rosenkrantz, 1972; Eagly, 1987;
Spence & Sawin, 1985). Gender roles have a descriptive function
that shapes perceptions and also a powerful prescriptive or injunc-
tive function that shapes expectations. Injunctive norms are con-
sensual beliefs about how members of a group ought to be (Cial-
dini & Trost, 1998). Because female communality is prescribed by
the role, observers generally approve of communal behaviors by
women and disapprove of noncommunal behaviors (Glick &
Fiske, 1996; Spence & Helmreich, 1978; Williams & Best, 1990;
Wood, Christensen, Hebl, & Rothgerber, 1997). When women
violate gender roles, they experience backlash in the form of
negative evaluations and treatment (Heilman & Okimoto, 2007;
Rudman, 1998; Rudman & Glick, 1999). Self-promoting women
tend to be evaluated higher in performance yet lower in likeability
than more reticent women (Powers & Zuroff, 1988). Dominant
behavior by female managers compared with male managers is
more likely to evoke impressions of hostility or irrationality (Hei-
lman, Block, & Martell, 1995). In short, many behaviors needed to
gain power and resources are encoded as noncommunal, so women
doing them risk backlash from observers (Eagly & Karau, 2002;
Strategic Responses to the Social Environment
In more recent research, women have been portrayed less as
victims of a prejudiced social environment and more as savvy
impression managers navigating the environment (Goffman, 1959;
Jones, 1990). Their behavior is based in realistic perceptions of the
environment. Women and minorities tend to notice subtle discrim-
ination to a greater degree than high-status White men (Dovidio,
Gaertner, Kawakami, & Hodson, 2002; Dovidio, Kawakami, &
Gaertner, 2002; Vorauer & Kumhyr, 2001). We propose that
women as negotiators may consciously adjust their level of asser-
tiveness situationally to avoid the realistic threat of backlash in
Research comparing impression management tactics of men and
women shows that women are more likely to engage in protective
strategies to minimize negative impressions, such as hedging
(Carli, 1990; DePaulo, 1992; Tannen, 1994) and apologies (Lee,
Quigley, Nesler, Corbett, & Tedeschi, 1999). Early in life, women
become experts at managing impressions and relationships (Guad-
agno & Cialdini, 2007). Vallacher, Wegner, and Frederick (1987)
found that when individuals believed their interaction partner
valued modesty, they altered their behavior to match the expecta-
tions. While many impressions can be heightened through verbal
claims, the impressions of modesty or other-orientation are better
managed by hedging one’s behavior than by boasting. Rudman and
Fairchild (2004) directly explored how anticipation of backlash
contributes to stereotype maintenance. They found that both men
and women who believed they had violated traditional gender roles
NEGOTIATING GENDER ROLES
feared negative backlash and tried to hide their role-violating
performances from others.
Contextual Contingency in the Gender-Role
Implications of Bargaining Assertively
To date, research on the backlash effect has been almost exclu-
sively in behavioral domains that inherently violate gender roles—
“counterstereotypic” behaviors (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). Rud-
man (1998) and colleagues (Rudman & Glick, 1999, 2001) studied
reactions to overtly agentic female job applicants. Further research
used knowledge in masculine domains (football) as an experimen-
tal manipulation of gender role violation (Rudman & Fairchild,
2004). However, many important domains of behavior are not
inherently tied to masculine or feminine themes. The congruity of
these behaviors, such as negotiation, with the feminine role may
depend on aspects of the context that imbue it with communal or
Negotiation is an interaction with incomplete information mak-
ing behavior attributionally ambiguous. Assertive bargaining can
be attributed to personal competitiveness, greed, or situational
constraints, such as accountability to constituents (Kelley & Sta-
helski, 1970; Morris, Larrick, & Su, 1999). A woman perceived to
be bargaining assertively to attain resources needed for the welfare
of her family would come across as communal, not as personally
greedy. Hence, assertive bargaining is interpreted as violating
female gender roles in some contexts, whereas in other contexts it
is interpreted as conforming to communality prescriptions. For
example, consider assertive self-interested distributive negotiating.
In salary negotiations, this behavior is perceived as incongruous
with the injunctive norm that women should be kind, gentle, and
communal. However, the same bargaining tactics performed by a
woman striving to attain an affordable rent for her family’s apart-
ment may be considered highly appropriate and consistent with
gendered expectations. Given that the same behavior can be per-
ceived in a dramatically different light and subsequently have
different social repercussions for targets, we sought to explore
whether female negotiators are able to capitalize on this ambiguity,
behaving assertively when perceivers are less likely to impose
social backlash and hedging their assertiveness when backlash is
probable. Preliminary evidence suggests that advocacy is an im-
portant moderator of perceivers’ attributions of assertive negotiat-
ing as violating gender norms (Amanatullah & Tinsley, 2009).
This research has found that perceivers engage in backlash against
women who assertively negotiate on their own behalf but do not
penalize similarly assertive women negotiating for others.
Advocacy: The Social Context of Negotiation
Gender differences do not exist in every negotiation context (for
review, see Kray & Thompson, 2005). However, for single-issue
distributive negotiations, meta-analyses have shown that women
are less competitive and agree to lower outcomes relative to men
(Stuhlmacher & Walters, 1999; Walters, Stuhlmacher, & Meyer,
1998). Nonetheless, an important contextual factor is that studies
have predominantly focused on negotiations in self-advocating
contexts. Recent empirical research indicates that in similar single-
issue distributive negotiations, women who negotiate on behalf of
another fare better (Bowles, Babcock, & McGinn, 2005). This
advocacy factor was explored in a recent study with experienced
negotiators (Amanatullah & Morris, 2009, Study 1), executives
who were assigned to negotiate salary on behalf of self or on
behalf of another. Results found that advocacy context mattered
for women; women negotiating on behalf of another secured
significantly higher salaries than women negotiating on their own
behalf. Advocacy did not matter for men; men performed equally
well as self-advocates and other-advocates.
However, past research has left open the key question of what
causes women to perform well in one context (other-advocacy) but
not the other (self-advocacy). One prior study exploring advocacy
as a moderator of gender differences in single-issue distributive
negotiations hypothesized that the mechanism of the effects was
based on sex differences in interdependent self-construal (Bowles
et al., 2005). Similarly, Wade (2001) theorized that women behave
differently as self-advocates than as other-advocates because of
stable orientations toward noncompetitive behavior. We think
these trait models mistake women’s strategies for personalities.
We diverge from these lines of research by hypothesizing that
women are aware of the potential for backlash, on the basis of the
likelihood that assertive negotiating would be viewed as incongru-
ent with injunctive gender norms and subsequently behave less
assertively in contexts in which backlash is likely to occur—
namely, in self-advocating rather than other-advocating contexts.
Several past findings provide indirect evidence for our argu-
ment. In a study of executives’ preferred conflict resolution styles
(Amanatullah & Morris, 2009, Study 2), women engaging in
conflicts in which their own interests were at stake reported
significantly lower inclinations toward competitive conflict modes
than men, whereas women engaging in conflicts in which anoth-
er’s interests were at stake were equally inclined toward compet-
itive conflict modes as men. Bowles, Babcock, and Lai (2007)
found that the reduced propensity of women to initiate negotiations
is reinforced in part by the social backlash they experience when
they do initiate (see also Amanatullah & Tinsley, 2009). In an
unpublished manuscript, Wade (1995) reported that when salary
requests were made in a public context in which the potential for
evaluation and subsequent backlash was present, women asked for
higher salaries for others rather than for themselves. However,
when salary requests were made in a private context in which the
potential for backlash was eliminated, women were freed from
normative expectations of selflessness and asked for higher sala-
ries for themselves. These findings suggest that women’s reticence
to negotiate assertively in some contexts may be a strategic sen-
sitivity to the risk of social backlash.
We sought to extend prior theory and research primarily through
the proposal of anticipated backlash as the mechanism leading
women to hedge their assertive behavior in negotiations and more
fully developing the rationale for why advocacy moderates this
relationship. We tested these predictions in a controlled laboratory
experiment. We found the moderation of gender differences in
negotiation behavior by advocacy, showing that other-advocacy
empowers female negotiators to behave more assertively and
achieve more favorable economic outcomes. Further, we measured
and tested the predicted mediator of this effect, anticipated back-
Our protocol simulated a dyadic salary negotiation. Participants
were told to play a job candidate negotiating via networked com-
puters with a randomly assigned negotiation counterpart. In actu-
258 AMANATULLAH AND MORRIS
ality, the counterpart was a computer program. By constraining the
behavior of the counterpart, this study allows for clearer measure-
ment of gender differences in negotiators’ proactive and reactive
moves in self-advocacy and other-advocacy contexts. We did not
expect that women would proactively capitulate when self-
advocating but that they would be wary and prepared to concede
upon receipt of signals that backlash may be imminent.
Data were collected from 59 participants recruited on campus at
a major university (Mage ⫽22.6 years). The sample consisted of
53% men and 47% women; 44% of the participants were White,
25% were Asian, 15% were Hispanic, 10% were Black, and the
remaining 6% were of other descent.
A computerized negotiation, adapted from Van Kleef, De Dreu,
and Manstead (2006), was developed for this study. The design felt
like a real negotiation, incorporating photographs, voice messag-
ing, and turn taking to heighten the realism of the interaction.
Participants were led to believe that they were negotiating with
another individual; in reality, all participants were negotiating
against the computer program. This deception was convincing in
that only three participants reported any suspicion that their nego-
tiation counterpart was not another participant negotiating with
them in real time. We analyzed the data excluding the responses
of those three participants and found no differences. Therefore, we
report results from the full data set below.
Prior to starting the exercise, we took a digital photograph of
each participant and loaded it onto the computer. These images
were later used to visually introduce participants with their nego-
tiation partner. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two
negotiation roles: the recruit (self-advocacy) or the agent (other-
advocacy). No participants were assigned the role of the hiring
manager because this role was simulated by the computer program.
After reading through their role information, participants were
given a hard copy of their role to keep with them for reference
during the negotiation. On this hard copy, participants were asked
to report on some prenegotiation preparation numbers.
When they were ready to begin the negotiation, participants
were told the computer would randomly select a counterpart par-
ticipating in the same study at another university. At this point,
participants were presented with a screen displaying both their
picture and a picture of their counterpart, and they were introduced
by name to one another. All participants negotiated against
the same counterpart, “Brian,” who made the opening offer in the
negotiation. The computer presented a low opening offer from the
hiring manager, accompanied by an audio message from the ex-
perimental confederate giving his reason for this offer. The par-
ticipant received this number, listened to the audio message, and
then chose how to respond: either accepting or declining the offer.
If the participant accepted, the negotiation was over. If the partic-
ipant declined, he or she was asked to record a message to send
back to the partner explaining the decision. To maintain the be-
lievability of the counterpart’s recorded statements, we gave the
participants a limited set of response options to send by audio
message to their counterparts. Participants were asked to choose
from one of five response options, read it out loud into the
computer microphone, and send the audio message to their coun-
terparts. After this task, participants were asked to send a numer-
ical salary offer and record another audio message from a provided
list of responses. The salary offer and audio messages were sup-
posedly transmitted to the hiring manager, who was given the
opportunity to respond. The negotiation continued in this manner
for a maximum of five rounds. Upon termination of the negotia-
tion, participants were asked to fill out a postnegotiation question-
naire reflecting on their experiences and impressions. Given that
deception was necessary to maintain believability of the study
design; appropriate measures were taken to thoroughly debrief
participants following the exercise.
Advocacy condition. Self-advocacy and other-advocacy were
manipulated in the role information assigned to the participants.
The self-advocacy condition described a senior in college negoti-
ating the salary for an attractive postgraduation job offer. The
other-advocacy condition described a recent graduate who referred
a friend, a senior at the university, for a job and was now respon-
sible for negotiating the friend’s starting salary. This scenario
suggests a future relationship with the partner, which makes it
more similar to the self-advocacy condition. All other information
was constant across conditions, including sample statistics on
salaries in the marketplace. Participants were also told that the job
candidate had another offer from another company that was non-
negotiable and likely near the market mean of $40,000. Given this
information, all participants were expected to enter the negotiation
with a reservation point near $40,000. Our original study design
included manipulating the gender of the person on whose behalf
other-advocates were negotiating. We found no differences in
participants’ prenegotiation reports or negotiation behaviors on the
basis of this manipulation, so we collapsed across this condition in
our final analyses.
Prenegotiation aspirations. Basic prenegotiation measures
(reservation point, target point, and anticipated opening) were
collected to assess expectations and motivation to negotiate favor-
One’s reservation point in a negotiation is the lowest offer one
is willing to consider before walking away from the table with an
impasse. To gauge this lower limit for the negotiators in this study,
we asked respondents to indicate in dollars,
What is the lowest salary you are willing to accept [for your friend] in
this negotiation? In other words, what is the least you would agree [for
your friend] to earn at Alpha before choosing [advising your friend] to
take the alternative job offer at Lambda?
One’s target point in a negotiation is one’s desired negotiated
outcome, typically an ideal aspiration. Respondents were asked to
indicate in dollars,
What is the highest salary that you will strive to get [for your friend]
in this negotiation? In other words, what is the ideal salary you want
Alpha to agree to pay [your friend]?
An anticipated opening offer is typically an aggressive first offer
above one’s target point to allow room for concessions during the
NEGOTIATING GENDER ROLES
negotiation process. To measure anticipated opening point, we
asked the respondents, “If you are given the opportunity to make
the first offer in this negotiation, how much will you suggest Alpha
pay for your [as your friend’s] salary?”
Anticipated backlash. Prior to starting the negotiation, par-
ticipants were asked to answer two questions about perceived
partner expectations: “How much do you think you can reason-
ably ask for without the hiring manager’s perceiving you to be
a pushy person?” and “How much do you think you can
reasonably ask for without causing the hiring manager to punish
you for being too demanding?” Because these two items were
highly correlated (r⫽.91; p⬍.001), they were averaged into
a single measure of anticipated backlash. The wording of the
questions and the response format (a dollar value) measured the
threshold at which respondents expected to incur negative so-
cial consequences; thus, a lower score indicates greater antici-
pation of backlash.
Concessionary behavior. The salary offer in Round 1, in
reaction to the hiring manager’s low opening offer, was used as the
primary measure of concessionary behavior. It is predicted that
self-advocating female negotiators would request a lower salary
than the other three experimental groups.
The structure of the experiment, in which the computer-
programmed hiring manager sent the same audio responses and
made the same offers, allowed for analyses of salary offers across
all five rounds of the negotiation. We conducted analyses for all
rounds of the negotiation, but because the results for all five were
nearly identical to the Round 1 analyses, we present only the
results of the first salary request, both for brevity and for avoidance
of violating assumptions of independence in the data.
Verbal behavior. During each round of the negotiation, par-
ticipants were given two opportunities to record and send audio
messages to their partner. Participants had to choose their message
from a list of five options that varied in content. On the basis of
pilot tests with this population, we constructed five kinds of
messages to capture common responses: assertive, entitled,
qualification-based, cooperative, or dejected/hopeful. The pilot test
consisted of respondents rating a series of negotiation behaviors on
the respondents’ willingness to engage in that behavior during a
salary negotiation (responses ranging on a scale from 1 to 7) and
how they would categorize that behavior (using 7 point scales for
each of the five categories listed previously). Behaviors that re-
ceived a mean willingness to use score above 5 and consistent
categorization scores were included as options in this study. A full
list of the response options given to participants in this study by
round is provided in the Appendix. During each opportunity to
record an audio message, participants were provided five options,
one statement from each of the five categories, from which to
select their response. The order of the five statements varied with
each exchange. We predicted that self-advocating women would
choose assertive statements less often than the other groups.
Negotiation style. Following the negotiation, participants
were asked to indicate, on a scale from 1 (not at all)to7(a great
deal) the extent to which they characterized their negotiation style
as “competitive.” It was expected that self-advocating female
negotiators would rate their style as less competitive, relative to the
other three experimental groups.
Results and Discussion
Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for prenegotiation goals
(reservation, target, and opening points) by gender and advocacy
condition. There were no main effects of gender on these measures
(reservation point: ␤⫽⫺0.09, t(57) ⫽0.66, ns; target point: ␤⫽
⫺0.13, t(57) ⫽0.99, ns; opening point: ␤⫽⫺0.20, t(57) ⫽1.56,
ns), casting doubt on personality accounts such as entitlement,
which imply that women generally aspire to lower salaries. Also
there were no interaction effects, casting doubt on the self-
construal account; female negotiators did not as aspire to more as
other-advocates as opposed to as self-advocates (reservation point:
␤⫽0.33, t(55) ⫽1.41, ns; target point: ␤⫽0.31, t(55) ⫽1.37, ns;
opening point: ␤⫽0.27, t(55) ⫽1.19, ns) nor did males aspire to
more as self-advocates than as other-advocates. These null results
suggest that personality accounts are too sweeping to account for the
nuances of gender differences in negotiation behavior.
To test the predicted account that women act on their antic-
ipations of backlash for stereotype violation, we compared
self-reported perceptions of anticipated backlash across exper-
imental groups. Results from these prenegotiation reports indi-
cate that self-advocating female negotiators did anticipate a
greater likelihood of backlash for behaving assertively. As seen
in Figure 1, self-advocating women perceived a lower threshold of
how much they could ask for before incurring backlash than did
negotiators in the other three conditions. Regression analyses were
used to test this pattern of results. A significant coefficient for the
interaction term supports the model (Table 2, Equation 2), F(3, 53) ⫽
3.01, p⬍.05; R
⫽.15; ␤⫽.52, t(56) ⫽2.37, p⬍.05. Means,
compared with ttests, revealed that self-advocating female negotia-
tors (M⫽$43,250, SD ⫽$4,264) anticipated backlash at a lower
threshold than each of the three other experimental groups—male
self: M⫽$50,813, SD ⫽$11,183, t(28) ⫽2.38, p⬍.05; female
other: M⫽$48,577, SD ⫽$5,094, t(25) ⫽2.96, p⬍.01; male other:
M⫽$47,357, SD ⫽$4,171, t(26) ⫽2.58, p⬍.05. Substantively,
these results indicate that self-advocating female negotiators felt the
need to ask for nearly $8,000 less than the other three groups to avoid
social backlash. Further, the moderation of backlash fears by advo-
cacy was unique to female negotiators as there was no difference in
the backlash anticipated by self- versus other-advocating men, t(28) ⫽
1.09, ns. Intuitively, one might expect that if backlash is anticipated,
Means and Standard Deviations of Prenegotiation
Prenegotiation aspiration levels
point Target point Opening point
M SD M SD M SD
Men 40.47 3.07 49.88 4.74 52.65 6.51
Women 38.54 4.10 46.77 5.36 49.15 3.76
Men 38.64 4.67 49.86 4.11 53.00 2.77
Women 39.43 2.75 50.20 5.06 52.40 4.15
Note. Table entries are in thousands of dollars.
260 AMANATULLAH AND MORRIS
prenegotiation aspirations would be pared down, commensurate with
one’s perception of the threshold of assertiveness leading to backlash.
However, we argue that anticipated backlash affects the negotiator’s
likelihood of making large and quick concessions in the negotiation
but not their wishes or expectations for desired outcomes. As such,
self-advocating female negotiators still set their aspirations as high as
others but are prepared to back down immediately when the potential
for backlash becomes real.
In the next set of analyses, we tested whether these prenegotiation
feelings of anticipated backlash translated into actual differences in
negotiation behavior with the prediction that self-advocating female
negotiators would concede more heavily in the negotiation. Linear
regression analyses revealed a significant interaction of gender and
advocacy in prediction of Round 1 counteroffer (Table 3, Equation 2),
F(3, 55) ⫽5.41, p⬍.01; R
⫽.23; ␤⫽.36, t(58) ⫽1.75, p⬍.10.
This interaction also shows that advocacy uniquely affected female
negotiators because men were unaffected by the manipulation. Figure
2 depicts mean salaries offered by gender and advocacy, which were
compared with ttests. Self-advocating female negotiators (M⫽
$42,000, SD ⫽$4,315) offered salaries in Round 1 that were signif-
icantly lower than each of the three other experimental groups—male
self: M⫽$48,441, SD ⫽$7,399, t(29) ⫽2.88, p⬍.01; female
other: M⫽$49,107, SD ⫽$4,377, t(26) ⫽4.33, p⬍.001; male
other: M⫽$49,821, SD ⫽$3,677, t(26) ⫽5.16, p⬍.001.
Further, this moderation by advocacy uniquely affected the nego-
tiation behavior of female negotiators as there was no difference in
the first offers made by men in the self- versus other-advocacy
conditions, t(29) ⫽0.64, ns. It should also be noted that the mean
salary offer made by self-advocating female negotiators was on
average over $7,000 less (nearly 20% of the total expected value)
and very near to their expected alternative job offer ($40,000),
making the possibility for further assertiveness minimal.
Given the greater monetary concessions of self-advocating
women, we next tested for mediation of this effect by anticipated
backlash. Following the steps to test mediation (Baron & Kenny,
1986), negotiation behavior was first regressed on the independent
Threshold of Social Backlash
Figure 1. Prenegotiation reports of anticipated backlash by gender and advocacy. Bars represent mean reports
of how much salary negotiators can request before incurring negative consequences by gender and advocacy;
vertical lines depict standard errors of the means.
Regression Analyses Predicting Anticipated Backlash
Gender ⫺3424.57 1954.04 ⫺0.23
Advocacy 759.65 1951.64 0.05
Gender ⫺7812.50 2636.60 ⫺0.53
Advocacy ⫺3455.36 2584.12 ⫺0.23
Gender ⴱAdvocacy 8883.93 3751.60 0.52
⫽.06 for Step 1; R
⫽.15 for Step 2. Gender is coded as 0 for
men and 1 for women; advocacy is coded as 0 for self and 1 for other.
Regression Analyses Predicting Round 1 Salary Offer
Round 1 salary offer
Gender ⫺3825.67 1444.10 ⫺0.32
Advocacy 3742.27 1442.44 0.31
Gender ⫺6287.33 1997.08 ⫺0.53
Advocacy 1380.25 1956.25 0.12
Gender ⴱAdvocacy 4965.90 2836.49 0.36
⫽.18 for Step 1; R
⫽.23 for Step 2. Gender is coded as 0 for
men and 1 for women; advocacy is coded as 0 for self and 1 for other.
NEGOTIATING GENDER ROLES
variable (the interaction of gender and advocacy condition), as
reported earlier. Next, negotiation behavior (Round 1 salary offer)
was regressed on the anticipated backlash yielding another signif-
icant, positive effect—F(1, 55) ⫽68.47, p⬍.001; R
.75, t(56) ⫽8.28, p⬍.001. Also presented earlier, in Table 2, are
the results regressing the mediator (anticipated backlash) on the
independent variable (the interaction of gender and advocacy).
Both the independent variable and the mediator were then entered
simultaneously into a regression equation. The effect of anticipated
backlash remained significant, ␤⫽.67, t(56) ⫽7.67, p⬍.001,
while the effect of the interaction term dropped out of significance,
␤⫽.03, t(56) ⫽0.17, ns, providing evidence for full mediation,
F(4, 52) ⫽23.58, p⬍.001; R
⫽.64. The result of this final step
of the mediation test is presented in Table 4. To test the indirect
effect of the interaction on concessionary behavior through antic-
ipated backlash, we conducted a Sobel (1982) test (z⫽2.28, p⬍
.05). These results support the prediction that anticipating backlash
leads women to hedge their monetary requests in negotiations.
In addition to the analyses testing our predictions, we also con-
ducted supplemental analyses. Similar to the results for Round 1,
in each of the other rounds, the interaction of gender and advocacy
was significant, although only marginally so for the Round 2 salary
offer (Round 2: p⬍.10; Rounds 3, 4, and 5: ps⬍.05). Mediation
and Sobel tests also revealed that anticipated backlash mediated
the relationship between the gender and advocacy interaction and
concessionary negotiation behavior during each round. This result
shows not only that self-advocating female negotiators were more
likely to anchor heavily on the hiring manager’s low opening offer
but also that they did not recover from this shock later on. Their
subsequent offers followed the path set by their first offer. Anal-
yses of the slopes of concessionary behavior across the negotiation
rounds reveal that although there was a scalar difference between
the magnitudes of the salary offers, the degree of concessions
made by men and women within the advocacy condition was the
same. There is no significant difference in slope between genders
within the advocacy conditions—self-advocacy: t(29) ⫽0.07, ns;
other-advocacy: t(26) ⫽1.06, ns. However, individuals in the
other-advocacy condition have steeper slopes than individuals in
the self-advocacy condition, t(57) ⫽3.85, p⬍.001. This may be
because it is less painful for agents to continually concede across
rounds, whereas individuals negotiating on their own behalf have
a more salient limit below which they choose not to concede. This
result provides an interesting insight into the key moment at which
the gender difference arises. Female negotiators are not conceding
more, or to a greater degree, than male negotiators; instead, they
are anchoring more heavily on their counterpart’s signals, leaving
them with less room to claim value and even pushing them below
the value, on average, of their no-deal alternative.
Salary requests provide an objective assessment of how competi-
tive participants were. We also collected a self-report measure of
negotiation style as an estimation of each individual’s self-perception
of their level of competitiveness. Results from these subjective ap-
praisals were consistent with the objective measures. Linear regres-
sion analyses revealed a significant interaction of gender and advo-
cacy in prediction of self-reported competitive negotiation style,
Figure 2. Concessionary negotiation behavior by gender and advocacy. Bars represent mean salary offers by
gender and advocacy; vertical lines depict standard errors of the means.
Regression Analyses Testing Statistical Mediation of Gender/
Advocacy Interaction on Round 1 Salary Offer by Anticipated
Round 1 salary offer
Gender ⫺2482.80 1498.06 ⫺0.21
Advocacy 2768.71 1382.66 0.23
Gender ⴱAdvocacy 352.97 2076.13 0.03
Anticipated backlash 0.55 0.07 0.67
⫽.64. Gender is coded as 0 for men and 1 for women; advocacy
is coded as 0 for self and 1 for other.
262 AMANATULLAH AND MORRIS
F(3, 55) ⫽2.90, p⬍.05; R
⫽.14; B⫽1.49, SE ⫽0.73; ␤⫽.45,
t(58) ⫽2.06, p⬍.05. Self-advocating female negotiators (M⫽3.86,
SD ⫽1.66) reported behaving less competitively during the negoti-
ation, relative to each of the three other experimental groups—male
self: M⫽5.06, SD ⫽1.52, t(29) ⫽2.10, p⬍.05; female other: M⫽
5.14, SD ⫽1.23, t(26) ⫽2.33, p⬍.05; male other: M⫽4.93, SD ⫽
1.07, t(26) ⫽2.03, p⬍.10. These results show that self-advocating
female negotiators were aware that they were hedging their assertive
It was expected that the audio messages chosen by participants
from the response set would reflect the tendency of self-advocating
female negotiators to shy away from more assertive statements in
favor of weaker ones relative to the other experimental groups.
However, analysis of this data revealed no differences across
gender and advocacy condition, which we will elaborate on more
fully in the General Discussion.
Results of the current study support the argument that women
negotiating economic outcomes in the workplace are simultaneously
“negotiating” social approval, conceding on material issues in con-
texts in which their assertiveness would be seen as running afoul of
gender expectations. The results of the laboratory experiment sup-
ported our predictions. Self-advocating female negotiators made
larger concessions than male negotiators or other-advocating female
negotiators. The magnitude of this difference in negotiation assertive-
ness was astounding, with self-advocating female negotiators conced-
ing away nearly 20% of the total value in just the first round of
negotiation. This finding puts into perspective the wage gap between
men and women. In 2007, women earned only 77.8 cents on the dollar
compared with what men were paid (National Committee on Pay
Equity, 2008). This difference of less than a quarter adds up over the
course of a full-time working life. According to the Coalition of Labor
Union Women, the average working woman with a college degree
will lose $713,000 to unequal pay during her working life (Arons,
2008). However, the results of our experiment not only provide
evidence for how advocacy moderates the effect of gender on nego-
tiation behaviors and outcomes; we further isolated the mechanism of
this interaction. We showed that this effect was fully mediated by
women’s stronger anticipation of backlash for gender stereotype vi-
olation. Postnegotiation reflection also revealed that self-advocating
female negotiators were aware of their hedging.
Gender influences on negotiation. Our findings disconfirm
the view that gender differences in negotiated outcomes reflect wom-
en’s deficit in negotiation capacity or motivation. Rather, our evi-
dence supports the account that gender differences reflect women’s
strategic tradeoffs between economic and social costs—a hedging of
assertiveness in contexts in which they anticipate incurring backlash.
When these social costs are eliminated in conditions of other-
advocacy, women exhibit the same assertive behaviors and successful
outcomes as men. Understanding that gender differences in negotia-
tion stem from strategic responses to social constraints provides
insights about the boundary conditions of gender effects.
Another theoretical contribution of this work is the identifica-
tion of contextual moderators that may explain inconsistent find-
ings in past research on gender and negotiations. As shown here,
with the content of the negotiation held constant, gender differ-
ences existed in some contexts (e.g., self-advocacy) but not in
other contexts (e.g., other-advocacy). Close examination of situa-
tional variants that act as boundary conditions provides a better
understanding of when and how gender will affect negotiation
behaviors and outcomes.
Additionally, there may be other situations in which the gender
difference is reversed, and women outperform men. For example,
the current research may help to explain the finding that women
bargainers outperform men in contexts in which negative stereo-
types about women as negotiators have been made overtly salient
(Kray et al., 2004). In this context, women may treat the negoti-
ation as a symbolic contest in which they (communally) represent
their social group, rather than merely themselves. As such, ob-
served stereotype reactance might be explained as a contextual
reframing to an other-advocacy context, leading women to exhibit
more assertive behavior and a more favorable outcome. Further
research is necessary to examine this suggestion and other cogni-
tive processes that may be involved in reactance effects.
Contributions to gender role congruity literature. Evi-
dence from our study sampling primarily undergraduate students
in combination with other evidence on the moderating role of
advocacy on graduate students (Bowles et al., 2005) and execu-
tives (Amanatullah & Morris, 2009) shows the pervasiveness of
gender norms. These norms are learned early in life and consis-
tently influence the way individuals make judgments about the
appropriateness of the behavior of those around them.
Further, the current findings extend the insights of gender role
incongruity theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002) by highlighting that the
congruity of behaviors to gender roles often depends on the social
context in which these behaviors occur. The context colors the mean-
ing of the behavior with regard to the basic gendered themes of
communion and agency. In our experiment, women competed more
and expected less backlash in other-advocacy contexts than in self-
advocating contexts, even when the content of the negotiations was
rigidly controlled. Female negotiators were able to successfully (both
socially and financially) engage in assertive behaviors at the bargain-
ing table when advocacy context aligned the connotations of assertive
bargaining with the communal prescriptions of the feminine role.
Thus, contexts that moderate this perceived incongruence alleviate the
likelihood of backlash and subsequently free women to assert them-
selves without social repercussions. Given that gender roles and
stereotypes are disappointingly resistant to change (see Dodge, Gil-
roy, & Fenzel, 1995; Leuptow, Garovich, & Leuptow, 1995), those
who develop applied strategies for helping women negotiate equal
salaries may do well to focus on more malleable contextual factors
that moderate gender role incongruity.
Although past research on role congruity theory has explored
moderators of perceived role congruity and backlash, these factors
generally involve the content of behavior rather than changes in
context. For example, adopting more participative management
styles reduces backlash against female leaders because it includes
behaviors, such as consulting about others’ preferences, that fit
with the feminine theme of communion (Eagly, Makhijani, &
Klonsky, 1992). The current research suggests that women can
engage in the same behavior—assertive bargaining—when set in
the context of other-advocacy.
NEGOTIATING GENDER ROLES
Contributions to the backlash effect. Researchers have ex-
plored various ways that women suffer backlash and various strate-
gies they use to address it once it occurs. The present research is
among the first in which the focus was on the mechanism of antici-
pated backlash, that is, how the threat of backlash can operate before
perceivers have even begun to act prejudicially (Rudman & Fairchild,
2004). As a result, the present findings support backlash effects as an
external cause of gender differences in negotiation outcomes.
Recent research has added nuance to the picture of backlash by
identifying less overt prejudicial behaviors, such as patronizing be-
havior toward women (for a review, see Gervais & Vescio, 2007).
Much of this research focuses on how women react to the treatment,
such as internalizing rather than expressing anger. A direction for
research suggested by the present findings is how women anticipate
and try to manage this treatment proactively. Women may have
strategies for avoiding or preempting patronizing interactions. In sum,
as our understanding of backlash has become increasingly complex,
so too should research explore further the dimensions of women’s
strategies for proactively managing these reactions.
Recall in our results, though the prenegotiation planning mea-
sures did not show significant interaction effects of Gender ⫻
Context, there was a nonsignificant trend indicative of hedging
behavior consistent with our predicted and observed pattern of
behavior. The trends in Table 1 suggest female self-negotiators set
lower reservation, target, and opening points relative to all three
other groups. This observation may be an indication that women’s
anticipated reactance to backlash potential when experienced at the
bargaining table may pervade their actions even before negotiat-
ing, though to a much lesser degree.
Issues for Future Research
In the future, researchers should explore contextual variables
beyond advocacy that may moderate the perceived incongruity
between assertive bargaining and feminine role prescriptions. A
woman assertively bargaining for her own salary may seem less
incongruous in careers that are historically feminine domains (e.g.,
nursing) than in historically masculine domains (e.g., banking).
The content of the negotiation issues may matter as well; assertive
bargaining for parental leave, for example, may be perceived as
less incongruous than bargaining for salary.
Also, it would be interesting to explore varied types of other-
advocacy. For example, is backlash mitigated when women are
negotiating on behalf of a group? Further, does membership in that
group influence backlash potential? Take, for example, two dif-
ferent forms of group-advocacy: us-advocacy, a member of a
group (e.g., a project manager negotiating the bonus for her team),
and them-advocacy, an outsider with no personal stake in the
group outcomes (e.g., a fundraiser negotiating donations for a
charity). Some researchers have argued that us-advocacy may be
especially empowering for women (Miller, 1991). Future research
should explore these conditions more closely.
In addition, the interaction of women and their negotiation
partners should be explored. We studied dyadic negotiations; how-
ever, the mediation tests were one-sided, looking solely at how
negotiators adjusted their behavior on the basis of anticipations of
social backlash. Another mechanism for gender effects may be the
signals or sanctions coming from the counterpart during the nego-
tiation. Clearly, outcome effects are a function not just of one
negotiator’s actions but of the interaction that occurs between the
parties. This factor could be explored by measuring the behaviors
of both parties over time, rather than by empirically controlling the
behavior of one to test variation in the other. Although our research
goals were better served through experimental control to isolate
the psychological mechanism, further insights may come from
studying less constrained, more naturalistic negotiations.
In future studies, investigators could help to replicate our pro-
posed mechanism, fear of backlash, beyond the meditational anal-
yses we conducted. Specifically, by manipulating the closeness in
the relationship between the female negotiator and the person on
whose behalf she is negotiating, investigators might find that
women are substantially more free to negotiate assertively when
there is a clearer communal orientation, for example, with a close
other, than when negotiating for a random other. Additionally,
similar to the studies by Wade (1995), researchers conducting
negotiations in a gender-blind context, such as via computerized
media (e.g., instant messaging or e-mail), should find that the
effect similarly disappears, as backlash would not be anticipated.
Compared with most accounts of gender differences in negotiation
outcomes, our account portrays women’s style in negotiations as
defensively and socially strategic rather than based on internal abili-
ties or beliefs. Although self-advocating female negotiators tend to
behave less assertively and to agree to worse monetary outcomes than
their male counterparts do, this strategy may be adaptive for them—at
least in terms of their short-term personal self-interest (albeit not in the
long-term interest of gender equality).
The present results suggest a different remedy than traditional
training of female negotiators to behave assertively, as this behavior
may be maladaptive, especially for self-advocating female negotia-
tors. Instead, any training programs should focus coaching on role
shifting. To the extent to which women can shift the contexts of
negotiation to other-advocacy, they can avoid negative stereotyping. It
may be fruitful to teach female negotiators how to reframe self-
advocacy negotiations as situations of other-advocacy. For example,
when negotiating her salary, a woman might reframe it as negotiating
for money for her family. Also, women can swap negotiation roles
with others to avoid self-advocacy. One woman can ask another
manager to make the case for her promotion, and she can reciprocate.
Some managers make this role-switching a policy, and it is probably
most effective when instantiated as a norm.
Last and not least, our findings suggest possible remedies for
ongoing salary negotiation inequality in organizational policies. Or-
ganizations that strive for salary equity must develop and implement
policies for giving raises on the basis of objective performance criteria
rather than on bargaining. These criteria are more equitable when they
include the performance of a manager’s subordinates, in addition to
the manager’s personal performance; in this way, communal mentor-
ing behaviors are rewarded. Thus, organizations need to adopt broad
and objective measures of a manager’s performance and worth rather
than using only self-report mechanisms. In situations in which objec-
tive metrics are not available, peer or 360° ratings provide more
accurate reads, reducing women’s need to self-promote to achieve
equitable pay. Overall, our findings imply that as human resource
procedures remove the need for employees to bargain assertively on
264 AMANATULLAH AND MORRIS
their own behalf, organizations can more effectively reduce problem-
atic gender inequities.
The current research has uncovered a hitherto missing link in the
effect of gender on negotiations. Though women seemingly fare
worse than men in most distributive negotiations, they are not less
capable bargainers, nor do they lack the sense of entitlement or
motivation to pursue economically favorable outcomes. Rather,
women are savvy impression managers who consciously negotiate
gender role expectations. They are aware of and react anticipatorily to
avoid a potential backlash for violating injunctive gender norms. In
addition, they are aware that in an ambiguous domain (i.e., negotiating
assertively) in some contexts (i.e., self-advocacy), assertive behavior
will be perceived as a violation of gender roles, yet in others (i.e.,
other-advocacy) it will be viewed as consistent with communal ex-
pectations, and women can subsequently negotiate accordingly to
maximize monetary value without risking penalties.
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Verbal Response Options
Response to Manager’s Offer
Your offer is insulting. It is way too low for me [my friend].
I am [My friend would be] disappointed with that offer.
I [My friend] deserve[s] to earn far more than that offer.
That offer does not sufficiently compensate my [friend’s] supe-
Thank you for that offer, but I [my friend] was hoping to earn
Justification for Counteroffer
You would be foolish not to seriously consider this counteroffer.
I hope you will find this salary acceptable.
I [My friend] deserve to be compensated significantly more than
other candidates you may interview this year.
266 AMANATULLAH AND MORRIS
You should pay me [my friend] at least this amount because I
am [my friend is] a workaholic; I leave [leaving] no problems
I believe this salary is fair to both you and me [my friend].
Response to Manager’s Offer
I am [My friend is] highly qualified to succeed in this job and
should be rewarded accordingly.
I am [My friend is] entitled to significantly more than that.
I appreciate your offer but unfortunately I [my friend] just
I have [My friend has] other offers that are looking much more
desirable right now.
I [My friend] was hoping to make more than that.
Justification for Counteroffer
I am [My friend would be] a beneficial addition to the Alpha
team so should be paid handsomely.
I [My friend] deserve[s] to earn substantially more than the
I believe this number serves as a reasonable compromise.
If you do not consider this counteroffer, I [my friend] may be
forced to accept a position at another company.
I [My friend] will be disappointed if you do not consider this
Response to Manager’s Offer
Your offer is unreasonable. I [My friend] refuse[s] to work for
I feel we are making some progress, but unfortunately I [my
friend] still cannot accept.
I [My friend] deserve[s] substantially more than your current
I [My friend] wanted to make more money than that.
That offer certainly does not acknowledge how highly valuable
my [friend’s] Ivy League education is to your organization.
Justification for Counteroffer
There is no way you can possibly expect me [my friend] to work
for less than this.
I was hoping you might find this salary reasonable.
I am [My friend is] worth at least this amount, if not more.
I [My friend] would be disappointed if I [he or she] did not earn
My [friend’s] superior education and experience warrant a sim-
ilarly superior salary.
Response to Manager’s Offer
While I [my friend] cannot accept that offer, I feel we are
nearing a satisfactory middle ground.
I [My friend] should be compensated highly because I am [my
friend is] an outgoing, social person that gets along well with
I am shocked that you would offer me [my friend] so little. I
[My friend] need[s] to be paid more.
I am confident that I am [my friend is] worth significantly more
than you are currently offering.
I am [My friend would be] saddened by that offer.
Justification for Counteroffer
I think both you and I [my friend] will be happy with this salary.
My [friend’s] award in a schoolwide creative problem-solving
contest demonstrates the ability to think outside of the box.
I strongly suggest you accept this offer because I [my friend]
refuse to work for less.
This salary better represents my [friend’s] worth and the amount
to which I am [my friend is] entitled.
I [My friend] would be disappointed earning much less than this
Response to Manager’s Offer
You need to be more flexible. There is absolutely no way I [my
friend] can work for a salary that low.
Your offer does not adequately reward my [friend’s] impressive
I am grateful that you are willing to cooperate, but I [my friend]
just cannot accept yet.
That salary is less than I [my friend] had originally hoped for.
My [friend’s] worth exceeds the amount of your current offer.
Justification for Counteroffer
I [My friend] simply cannot and will not work for less than this.
This salary is reasonable because I am [my friend is] a hard
worker and am [is] intolerant both of mistakes in my [his or her]
own work and that of others.
I feel this salary serves both your and my [friend’s] interests.
I [My friend] had hoped to make more money than this working
I am [My friend is] entitled to significantly more than other
candidates in a similar position.
Received October 16, 2008
Revision received July 2, 2009
Accepted July 6, 2009 䡲
NEGOTIATING GENDER ROLES