Friday, October 2, 2015

Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove: Gender/Professional Identity & Women's Negotiation Performance

Dr. Shira Mor, Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management in Erasmus University, presented her work on gender professional identity integration in today's HKS WAPPP Seminar. While introducing Dr. Mor, Professor Hannah Riley-Bowles noted that she "thinks about the practical at the individual level", meaning that her work aims to deliver insights that women can use in their individual lives. "My message is very positive, it's very rewarding to engage in this research", Dr. Mor commented.

The question that triggered her research was about what it means to integrate the feminine and the masculine side that all persons have within them. She recalled a description by Virginia Woolf of the two "important and resonant" powers inside us that are both, feminine and masculine, and mentioned that if integrated, could have incredibly creative outcomes. How to actually bridge these two identities is one of her main interests.

Virginia Woolf made it into the discussion
at the HKS WAPPP Seminar
Dr. Mor described a number of studies she has run to see the effect of gender/professional identity integration (GPII) on negotiation results for women. GPII refers to the degree to which any person feels like their gender identity fits in well with the professional role they perform, measured by self-reported responses to an eight item questionnaire. The questionnaire is administered most commonly to people whose gender is opposite to the dominant gender in their field, such as male nurses or female engineers. If a person reports that their gender identity interferes with their work or that they feel uncomfortable exhibiting certain gendered traits in a professional setting, they will score low on GPII. Conversely, people who see their gender identity as a professional resource will score high on GPII. Essentially, it is looking at how well people can integrate their feminine and male sides.

In the first study, Dr. Mor observed the results of a negotiations class exercise. Before the exercise began, the students were scored on GPII; female students tended to report lower GPII than males. The students conducted a simple negotiation simulation in which they would play either the buyer or the seller. After the negotiation, female students with high GPII achieved much better outcomes than female students with low GPII. In contrast, GPII had no effect on men's negotiation results.

Dr. Mor explains her methodology
In the second study, the research team brought in a group of women into a negotiation training environment and put them in a salary negotiation with a male actor who they believed to be a recruiter. The goal was to find out whether it was really GPII driving the effects or whether there were other personal traits that were producing the results. After the negotiations, high GPII women obtained higher starting salary offers regardless of other characteristics such as race. These negotiators tended to smile more frequently and have more open body postures than low GPII negotiators.

One of her next papers took this a step further and looked at whether GPII for women could be induced. Participants in the experiment were randomly assigned to one of three groups before the negotiation exercise. The first group was asked to list ways in which being female helped them professionally; the second listed ways in which being female negatively impacted them at work; the third was a control group who entered the negotiation without any prior activity. The research assistants who coded the responses found the negative experiences especially difficult to read, because they contained reports of a wide array of experiences like harassment, catcalling, among others.

The participants then answered the GPII questionnaire and conducted a negotiation. The study finds that participants who listed positive traits scored higher on GPII and obtained better outcomes from the negotiation. Commenting and referencing related research, professor Riley-Bowles mentioned GPII might not likely come from within but from an interaction with society. Also striking was the fact that results for those who listed negative aspects of their gender identity at work were very similar to the control group's, sadly suggesting that women's 'default' setting is to have low GPII. "It's sad to say that there is no real control condition", Dr. Mor said.

Dr. Mor is continuing this course of study to identify the struggles and challenges women face to hopefully be able to prescribe useful adaptive strategies to navigate around them. Follow her research to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! It would be interesting to conduct a similar study segmented by types of industries (there are some heavily dominated by women)