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He Said, She Said--and Why Hillary Needs to Know the Difference

Women who try to negotiate for higher pay may be penalized for their efforts: True or False?

Many of the women I know, not to mention my wife, would quickly check the True box on that question. Many male managers, I think, might have a different view.

The correct answer, according to new research by Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor Hannah Riley Bowles, is True. The answer deserves some pause for both sexes in the workplace.

In this terrific interview, she explains that historically men have been more willing than women to negotiate for a compensation bump. But the answer isn't that "women should act more like men." In fact, in her research, when women did negotiate for themselves, they were punished in a subtle, but not insignificant way: " ...when women attempt to negotiate for higher compensation, people are less willing to work with them as compared with women who don't negotiate," says Bowles. So much for building networks to enhance your career.

Men consistently penalized women in this way more than women penalized women. And you can probably see the punchline coming: Men generally did not penalize other men for negotiating higher compensation.

Another interesting insight: When women anticipated a male "evaluator" they were significantly less inclined than men to try to negotiate. (When study participants were anticipating a female evaluator, both men and women were equally reticent to negotiate.)

The takeaway: Women are less likely to negotiate for themselves because the social costs are too great.

What's this have to do with Hillary Clinton? Bowles notes that women are increasingly finding themselves in leadership roles -- Harvard recently named its first female leader, and Clinton might be the country's first female president. Leadership studies show that there is little performance variation between men and women, but they are evaluated differently.

Says Bowles: Women in leadership "do have to be self aware that people do still carry in their minds these expectations or these visions of women as being very nice and agreeable and social and other-oriented. So I do think that there does remain, not uniformly, but in general, a need for women leaders in contemporary society to communicate their social, their warm, their agreeable, their likeable side, as well as their highly competent side when they are attempting to persuade others."

Are women more reluctant than men to speak up for themselves at salary negotiation time? Are they punished for doing so. What have you seen?

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