Are Women Bad Divorce Negotiators?August 31, 2017 • By Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®
When it comes to negotiation, women often get a bad rep as weak, insecure, and not confident. Most research on the topic of gender and negotiation deals with salary negotiation, where surveys do find that women are less likely to negotiate for a higher salary than their male counterparts.
Do women really face a crisis of confidence when they come to the negotiation table, and how does that affect divorce negotiations where a financial future may be up for grabs? What can women do to improve their negotiation skills so that they can drive a hard bargain and get what is fair in divorce?
What the Research Says About Women and Negotiation
A lot of scholars have researched how women and men negotiate for salary, and the results don’t look too good for women. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, writer Hannah Riley Bowles points to one survey of graduating MBA students that found that half of the men negotiated their job offers, while a measly one in eight women did the same. Additionally, a survey noted on Salary.com found that while 39% of men reported being apprehensive about negotiating for a higher salary, that percentage jumped to 55% of women. If women are so reticent to negotiate for a higher salary, what does that mean when things such as their homes, alimony and child custody are on the line during divorce negotiations?
Why Do Women Hesitate to Negotiate?
Are women inherently bad at negotiating because of their gender? Not so, claims Hannah Riley Bowles in her article for the HBR. She explains that “in repeated studies, the social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men.” In other words, women are more likely to be penalized by bosses and co-workers for negotiating too hard. What looks like strength and confidence in men can seem overbearing and aggressive in women.
What Can Women Do When Negotiating Their Divorce?
Negotiating during a divorce is not the same thing as negotiating for a salary. With more on the line and no bosses to impress, women may be more likely to step up to the plate and play ball. Additionally, at least some research suggests that women can be just as good negotiators as their male counterparts. A study released by the University of Florida surveyed MBA students and “discovered that women who had experience with successful negotiation were better negotiators than men.”
The study’s authors theorized that the gender negotiation disparity exists simply because men are more likely to have previously held high paying jobs than women, giving them more experience – and more comfort – negotiating.
If you don’t have a lot of experience negotiating (and even if your husband is a master negotiator), that doesn’t mean you’ll lose out on your divorce negotiations. Instead, you may want to consider hiring a divorce attorney who does have plenty of experience negotiating on behalf of clients. A divorce attorney can help you design your negotiation strategy, especially if you plan on attending divorce mediation. Even if the idea of negotiation makes you feel a little nervous, take strength in knowing that women can be just as good at negotiating as men!
One of the best ways to help conquer your pre-divorce jitters is to get informed by interacting with professionals in the divorce field. Consider signing up for the next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area.