Dr. Patricia Elgoibar and Dr. Thierry Nadisic

IESEG School of Management, LEM-CNRS, Paris- La Defense, France

One of the main tasks of leaders is taking decisions and negotiating. Negotiation has been traditionally seen as a masculine domain. This is motivated by stereotypes about male and female behaviors, where women are depicted as relatively soft, accommodating and therefore weaker negotiating partners. However, empirical studies among female and male representatives suggest that negotiation behavior doesn’t differ among male and female managers, suggesting that the stereotype that places women in a weaker position in organizational negotiation is false (Elgoibar, Munduate, Medina & Euwema, 2014).

Previous research has shown a link between women involved in the decision-making processes and gender issues promoted within the organizations. By including women in the negotiation table the pool of ideas, possible solutions, and approaches to solving the problem is expanded. The role of women and the need for equal representation, as well as recognizing the need to change the masculine culture in top managerial positions to accommodate minority interests, is an essential theme in building a more equal society.

We claim that in order to promote gender equality inside managerial positions, this stereotype needs to be phased out.

By this, we are not even suggesting that the ideas coming from women are better, or that women have more or better skills, but what we would like to remark is that women as well as men are needed in these positions, and that the skills don’t depend on the gender. Hence, men and women can have the needed skills to become a successful manager, and therefore, society should allow them to have the same opportunities and break the “glass ceiling” at each stage.

This reflection on women’s role in negotiation is only an illustration of a larger question nowadays pertaining to fairness at work. Unbelievably and unfortunately, gender inequality is still a fact in the 21st century. This is so at different levels in our society and this is clearly illustrated at the representatives and top management positions, as an example, women hold 5% of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. Alice Eagly -American expert on gender and author of “Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about how Women Become Leaders”- concludes that inequality in top positions is not due to the fact that women are all waiting one level below the CEO, but that women progressively drop out of the hierarchy, extending the glass ceiling metaphor. Inequality is not limited to getting power by breaking the ceiling glass but also, from an economical perspective, women earn about 16% less per hour than men on European average. However – and here may come your personal view of incredulity – women represent 60% of university graduates. That is, women and men don’t differ in their qualification, but women continue to lag behind on labor force participation and earnings.

"Treaty of Rome" by Identity of photographer unknown. Source: Wikipedia Commons

“Treaty of Rome” by Identity of photographer unknown. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. It goes back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. In the United States, the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act promoted equality between women and men in the 1960s. Still this is not a reality in 2014.

Fortunately, things change in the right direction. The European Union and the United States have become increasingly concerned with gender equality in the workforce, including representative and managerial positions for women in organizations. The World Bank believes that the achievement of gender equality depends on educating girls, increasing early childhood development interventions, increasing women’s labor force participation and strengthening labor policies affecting women, improving women’s access to credit, land and other resources and promoting women’s political rights and participation.

Helping women to be seen as legitimate negotiators can be one of multiple useful strategies to improve equality at work. Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook adds to it and suggests that to promote gender equality at top positions in organizations, women should: “One, sit at the table. Two, make your partner a real partner. And three, don’t leave before you leave”.