Pay gaps and life hacks: Negotiation

Picture this: two students graduate with the same degree, find entry-level positions in the same field and negotiate their starting salaries. The only difference is their gender.

Man and woman negotiating their salaries

Can you spot the difference?

In almost every industry, the gender pay gap starts at graduation. 

Negotiation is part of everyday life. Individuals engage in negotiation in the workplace, in the marketplace and in their daily lives.

The different ways women and men engage in pay negotiations is an important contributing factor to the gender pay gap. Research shows that gender inequalities during workplace negotiations can influence outcomes. In Amelia and William’s story, their first salary negotiations marked the beginning of a lifetime of pay inequality.

Much like Amelia and William, almost 40% of Australians are employed on individual arrangements and negotiate pay with employers. The five industries with the highest gender pay gaps also have a higher share of employees negotiating their wages.

Recent research from Australia and the UK found that women are just as likely as men to ask for pay rises but less likely to achieve a positive outcome. 

Just as women are sometimes penalised in wage negotiation, men are sometimes penalised in non-financial negotiation. Research shows men are twice as likely to have their requests for flexible working arrangements rejected.

So what can we do about it?

Both organisations and individuals have a role to play in improving negotiation outcomes for women and men at work.


Create environments where fair and equitable negotiations take place by:

  • undertaking a pay gap analysis
  • not asking recruits for their salary history
  • reframing negotiations as low-pressure opportunities to ask
  • normalising flexible working arrangements for all, particularly men, set targets of take up for men.
Negotiate on pay and know your value


Actions to take to become better negotiators:

  • check out the Higher Education Enrolments and Graduate Labour Market Statistics fact sheet to see the graduate gender pay gaps in your field of work
  • benchmark salary expectations against your peers and the market rates
  • prepare well before the meeting
  • advocate for yourself and be clear about what you want.

For more tips and advice, see the WGEA insight paper: Gender and negotiation in the workplace.