Queen Elizabeth I of England, by an unknown Dutch artist, c.1575
Ideas for Leaders #417

Why Women Who Blend Gender and Professional Identities Are Better Negotiators

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Key Concept

Women who believe that their gender and professional identities are compatible are more likely to be successful in negotiations and other professional pursuits than women who are unable to ‘integrate’ their multiple identities.

Idea Summary

Why are some women negotiators better than others? The answer may lie in whether or not women believe that their gender and professional identities are compatible or not. Women who believe their gender and professional roles are compatible — women who are in the social science terminology “high on gender/professional identity integration,” or GPII, are much more successful in competitive negotiation situations. Identity integration also leads to better economic performance, without incurring a backlash. One recent study showed that women high on identity integration were able to negotiate higher salaries for themselves without incurring social backlash. GPII also reduces an individual’s concern with a social backlash — that is, their fears of harming relationships.

The success of high GPII women can be tied to the fact that they displayed behaviours associated with both the female gender (warmth) and their professional identity (dominance). Controlled experiments in which identity integration was manipulated revealed that high identity integration sparks women to attempt to combine warmth with dominance; low identity integration reduces their desire to do so. This combination is important as dominance has been shown to be more important to professional success, while warmth is more important to women’s social success— because it can offset the social damage that can be caused by dominance.

Business Application

In order to be successful, women must manage their multiple social identities. Past research demonstrated, for example, that female engineers who believed in the compatibility of their different identities performed better than those who didn’t. The reason, according to the latest research, is that identity integration inspires women to use elements from both of their identities in the professional behaviour and in setting their goals. In negotiation, this successful blend of gender- and professional-inspired behaviour is summarized in the phrase ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’. Engaging in negotiations with an arsenal of both dominance and warmth has proven to be a successful strategy.

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Idea conceived

  • February 2014

Idea posted

  • July 2014

DOI number



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