Back To Career News

Millennials and Women Don’t Negotiate Salary: Here’s Why That’s Important


Negotiating salary does more than just net you more money in the short-term; in the long-term, it leads to important financial advances that are hard to come by any other way. You won’t just feel the impact of the extra income during your first year of employment; it will continue to be a factor in increases going forward, as many raises and bonuses are calculated based on a percentage of salary.

women and money

(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

Still, a lot of folks still don’t negotiate their salaries, and this is what tends to make the headlines. However, in order to better understand this issue, we have to examine why some people choose not to negotiate more often than others. Here’s what we know.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Women don’t negotiate as much as men, and this is one factor in the gender wage gap.

The gender wage gap is the result of many different issues. PayScale has found that women do tend to choose jobs/fields that pay less than others, and they’re slightly less likely to negotiate salary. But, those statistics don’t paint a full picture. In order to figure out what’s going on, we have to look at why women (and millennials too, it turns out) are less likely than others to negotiate salary. 

2. There isn’t enough awareness of the cause of the problem. The emphasis is on the discrepancy.

In order to make any change, we have to understand the problem at hand. There is a lot of data out there about negotiations. Payscale’s Salary Negotiation Guide indicates that women negotiate slightly less often than men, with a few exceptions (top level execs for example) but the big differences are actually found when women are asked why they shy away from the negotiation table. Their answers differ from their male counterparts quite widely, even when their negotiation habits don’t.

3. Millennials also don’t negotiate their salaries as often as others.

Millennials, are less likely to negotiate salary than other generations, at least when it comes to solidifying their first professional position. Sixty percent of millennials don’t negotiate salary when receiving their first job offers. This is a costly career decision. That starting salary is such an important key to financial success, as it impacts compensation rates for years to come.

4. Groups that tend to shy away from negotiations often do so, in part, because of concerns about the consequences.

Compared with men, women are more uncomfortable with negotiations. Women say that their uneasiness with this process is the reason they didn’t negotiate 31 percent of the time, whereas men only reference the same reasoning 23 percent of the time.

Many millennials started their careers during the Recession, when any job was better than none. Feeling grateful for the opportunity might lead them to feel uncomfortable trying to leverage for better compensation right out of the gate.

However, again we must ask – why? To know that women (and millennials as well) are more uncomfortable initiating salary negotiations isn’t the answer. We have to try to understand why they feel the way they do about this important career move.

5. Society doesn’t respond the same to women and younger people who negotiate.

Why should professional women with the same qualifications and experience as men feel a similar hesitation to ask for more? Because the world reacts negatively to it when they do.

Women are forced to toe a fine line between masculine and feminine when it comes to salary, and it seems they’re sort of doomed either way. If they don’t ask – too feminine – they end up with lower salaries. If they do negotiate – too masculine – then they’ll be seen as too aggressive, or just plain unlikable. A 2006 study, referred to as the Bowles study, found that when women negotiate their salaries, both men and women are less likely to want to work with or hire them. This effect was 5.5 times that faced by men who negotiated.

So, women often don’t negotiate for good reasons. And, the same could be true for millennials who also risk being seen as too aggressive and demanding when negotiating their first salaries. Therefore, they are stuck between a rock and hard place, unable to find a path toward action that will benefit them both in the short and the long term.

Perhaps building awareness, and greater sensitivity to the problem, is a good step toward making a change. Another important move might be to stop blaming folks for not negotiating their salaries, and instead, to ask them why they feel they can’t. This is a problem we have to pull up by the roots.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever hesitated to negotiate your salary? Why? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Michele VolpeCharles Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I am a millennial and I did not negotiate for my first job, ended up 5years down the road my pay is still very low. Now I surfer a lot when whenever I start to ask for higher pay during an interviews, hiring managers always say can’t justify the amount as the average increase should only be about 20% from your current pay.

Michele Volpe
Michele Volpe

Well said! I wish I had read this a year ago when my millennial daughter was hired for her first professional job. Her starting salary was so low it’s going to take her years to recover.

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.