Negotiation Frustration

Who says women don’t negotiate?

Two women with a speech bubble between them showing hurdles, as for a track meet.

For decades, a closet industry of books and workshops has promised to make women better negotiators and help close the gender pay gap. But new research by Professor Laura Kray shows that believing women don’t ask for higher pay is not only outdated, but it may be hurting pay equity efforts.

“Continuing to put the blame on women for not negotiating away the gender pay gap does double damage, perpetuating gender stereotypes and weakening efforts to fight them,” says Kray, the Ned and Carol Spieker Chair in Leadership.

Last year, women earned about 22% less than men, on average. But broken down by income level, the gap for middle- and lower-wage women has decreased over the past 20 years while the gap for those with higher salaries—where there is often more room for negotiation—has increased.

Women MBA grads earn 88% of what men make after finishing their degree but only 63% of what men make 10 years later, past research by Kray and others has found.

Women Do Ask

The researchers’ survey of a nationally representative sample confirmed the perception that women negotiate less than men and are less successful when they do. Yet when Kray and her co-authors analyzed a survey of students graduating from a top MBA program between 2015 and 2019, they found that significantly more women than men reported negotiating their job offers—54% versus 44%.

The researchers then delved into a 2019 alumni survey of 1,900 MBA grads and found, again, that the women earned 22% less than men. But other than women’s lower pay, the only differences that emerged along gender lines were that more women than men said they had attempted to negotiate—and more women reported being turned down.

“Continuing to put the blame on women for not negotiating away the gender pay gap does double damage, perpetuating gender stereotypes and weakening efforts to fight them.”

Revisiting past conclusions

Kray and her co-authors also used an updated statistical approach to revisit a 2018 meta-analysis of studies on gender and negotiations. Focusing on nine studies published from 1982 to 2015 that measured gender differences in initiation of salary negotiations, they found no difference overall. But when they looked at changes over time, they found that men did report higher rates of negotiating versus women early in the era. The gender difference appeared to disappear around 1994 and reversed beginning around 2007. The trend has continued to grow since then, Kray says.

Many factors may have contributed to women’s greater assertiveness over the past two decades, including the “lean-in” movement sparked by Sheryl Sandberg’s book of the same name. But the downside of such messages has been to “blame the victim,” Kray says—putting the onus on women to fix the pay gap by working more and trying harder.

Another experiment exploring attitudes about the pay gap’s causes and support for solutions found that people who believed more strongly that women’s lower negotiation rates fueled the pay gap for MBA graduates were less likely to support salary-history bans and more likely to justify the current system.

“Negotiating for pay or promotions is clearly beneficial, and there’s room for everyone to do more negotiating,” Kray says. “But it’s time to end the notion that women don’t ask.”

Investing in the Future

Preparing Black teens for financial success

Smiling young Black woman in a red coat with a black-and-white checkered shirt.

Alexandria Williams had taken economics at Oakland’s Skyline High School, but she didn’t learn much about how to actually budget and manage money. So for eight Saturdays during her senior year, she headed to class at Berkeley Haas, learning not only about personal finance but also about investing, home ownership, and building intergenerational wealth.

Her efforts paid off. Williams (shown above), along with 23 other high school seniors who graduated in May from the Economic Equity and Financial Education Pilot Program, walked away with an $8,000 college scholarship from Pacific Gas and Electric. The students also gained financial knowledge well above the average high school graduate plus a new network of supporters and mentors.

“What I would tell my friends would be to invest as much as you can for however long as you can, because the length of time makes a difference,” says Williams, who is headed to UC Irvine in the fall.

Group of Black teens, some holding completion certificates, who attended a financial education program at Berkeley Haas.
The 24 high school seniors who graduated from the Economic Equity and Financial Education Pilot Program gained financial knowledge and a new network of supporters and mentors.

The pilot program, created by PG&E in collaboration with Haas, Berkeley Executive Education, and Mills College at Northeastern University, aims to equip African American high school students from under-resourced Oakland and Bay Area high schools with financial tools for success. It also has a more ambitious goal: to make a dent in the pervasive wealth gap between white and Black and Latinx U.S. households. 

According to a 2021 U.S. Federal Reserve study, the average Black and Latinx U.S. household earns about half as much as the average white household and owns only about 15% to 20% as much net wealth.

Jimi Harris, chief of community relations at PG&E, created the program in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, to channel his anger and frustration into something positive, and PG&E committed $500,000 from its community charitable Better Together Giving Program.

Harris’ Morehouse College classmate Jason Miles, founder and managing director of Amenti Capital, worked with Associate Professor Panos N. Patatoukas to co-develop the curriculum. For Patatoukas, the program appealed to his passion for equalizing access to financial education. “Technology has been transforming education in profound ways, but access to financial education still remains within the reach of only a few,” Patatoukas says.

For Harris, the true benefits of the program have yet to be realized. “These kids have demonstrated a tremendous amount of discipline, and they’re investing in themselves, which is the biggest investment they can make,” he says.

Young Black student looking thoughtful with his chin resting on his hand.


Game Changer

Fellowship proves crucial to career success

Ladder being constructed by three Black men working together.

In 2005, John Fernandez, MBA 07, was considering his next career steps and whether earning an MBA would help him get there. “I’d just gotten married. I was having a kid. I bought a house,” says Fernandez. “So an MBA meant a lot of sacrifice, and I didn’t know if it made more sense to just keep moving up at my current company instead.”

He decided on Berkeley Haas largely because he received the Torres Family Fellowship. “The Torres fellowship was a game changer for me,” Fernandez says. “It made me say ‘I’m going to go do this.’”

The decision to pursue an MBA turned out to be a good one for Fernandez, who today is CFO at Forge Rock. He’s seen the company grow from 80 employees and around $4 million in revenue to nearly a thousand employees and around $250 million in revenue.

Foundations of Success

Once at Haas, Fernandez was impressed with the strong sense of community at the school. Michael Torres, BA 82 (architecture), MBA 86, CEO of Adelante Capital Management, a registered investment advisor, and founder of the Torres Family Fellowship, was a focal point of that community.

Fernandez recalls gathering at Torres’ office with other fellowship recipients. “We were all sitting there with this very successful individual at his beautiful office, and he talked about creating a network among people and among Torres fellows to help each other be successful,” he says.

For a first-generation MBA student like Fernandez, who didn’t have a built-in network of business contacts, the connections Torres created through the fellowship were a crucial foundation for his career.

Setting an Example

Torres has long been an active Berkeley alumnus, including as a member of the UC Berkeley Foundation, for which he’s now a trustee emeritus. He created the Torres Family Fellowship in 2005 in part to serve as an example to other foundation members and alumni. Since that time, 16 students have benefitted from the fellowship.

Torres continues to connect with current and former fellows. He’s also the proud parent of a current Haas MBA student. Fernandez and Torres stay in contact, including the occasional round of golf. Both unequivocally agree Torres is the better golfer.

Torres says it’s always fulfilling to hear about the success of fellowship recipients, a testament to the community he’s fostered. “Giving back pays dividends in life,” he says. “You just don’t know when and how. It isn’t necessarily monetary.”

Haas welcomes hundreds of new undergrad, MBA, PhD students to campus

Berkeley Haas welcomed an accomplished group of nearly 700 new full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD students to campus, kicking off the start of the fall 2023 semester. (The new evening & weekend and executive MBA classes arrived on campus earlier this summer.)

Full-time MBA program

A total of 244 new full-time MBA students kicked off five days of Week Zero orientation last Monday. Orientation included sessions on academic life at Haas, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging (DEIJB), team building, and career planning.

Wendy Guild, the new assistant dean of MBA programs at Haas, welcomed the class. “I want to celebrate the fact that you are here,” she said, noting that 2023 is a special year for Haas, marking the school’s 125th anniversary. “We have staying power,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere… We’re just getting better.”

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A total of 244 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2025 arrived last week for Week Zero orientation. Wendy Guild, assistant dean of MBA programs, welcomed the group, noting that Haas is celebrating a special 125th anniversary this year.
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The new MBA class is comprised of 41% women; 20% are first-gen.
Prof. Don Moore, acting Haas dean, urged students to reach out to each other and take advantage of the resources at Haas, especially when the curriculum gets tough. "All of us want to see you succeed," he said.
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Introducing the Gold Cohort!
Introducing the Axe cohort!
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Introducing the Oski cohort!
Introducing the Blue cohort!
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The Haas Undergraduate Program team welcomed 421 new students Monday. A total of 3,306 students applied to the program.
The undergraduate class includes103 transfer students and 240 continuing UC Berkeley students.
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New students met up in the Haas courtyard throughout orientation.
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All photos by Jim Block and Noah Berger.

New students participated in a whirlwind of orientation activities—from a scavenger hunt to an ice cream social to cleanup work at a local nonprofit that supports people who are homeless.

The MBA students are an accomplished group, with an average of nearly six years of work experience, with 20% coming the tech sector and 24% from consulting.

Remy Freire, MBA 25, was a consultant at Bain & Company in Washington D.C. before coming to Haas.

“I’m interested in climate tech and renewable energy and I thought that the MBA would be a chance to take classes and do an internship in that area, and get some hands-on experience. A lot of folks are interested in this at Haas and I’ll be meeting people with similar interests to mine.”

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Imogen O’Connor, MBA 25

The class boasts 41% women and is richly international, including students from 39 countries.

Imogen O’Connor, MBA 26, worked as an analytical manager with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK before she came to Haas.

“What really prompted me to do an MBA was around change management and leadership because I was coming up against a lot of barriers in the NHS,”  she said. “I really care about health care and just helping people. I think I need to develop certain skills in order to do that properly.”

The class has an average collective GMAT score of 732, and GREs of 163 quant and 161 verbal, and an average GPA of 3.63.

Eric Askins, director of MBA admissions, told the students to expect to learn from peers who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Notably, 20% of the students in this class are the first generation of college students in their families. Fourteen of the new students are pursuing a dual MPA/MPH (public health) degree; nine are enrolled in the MBA/MEng (engineering) program.

Orientation week alumni speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, shared his wisdom with the class, encouraging students to explore and take advantage of the breadth and depth of the UC Berkeley and Haas campus resources, focus on academics in the first quarter in particular, and reach out to alumni to build a network.

Undergraduate program

The entering undergraduate class is 421 students strong this year.  The new class includes 103 transfer students and 240 continuing students, as well as new undergraduates students enrolled in special undergrad programs including The Global Management Program (GMP), The Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE) (25 students), and the Management Entrepreneurship and Technology (M.E.T).

Acting Dean and Professor Don Moore, whose research covers leadership and confidence in business and beyond, welcomed the students.

“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society,” he said.

“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers,  entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society.” – Acting Dean Don Moore

Moore said the long list of leaders who embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself) includes professional golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, who won the 2020 PGA Championship; Nabeela Syed, BS 21, the first Muslim Indian-American and the youngest woman to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives; and gaming entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, who with his wife,  Dr. Connie Chen, provided the largest-ever personal gift to UC Berkeley by an alumni under the age of 40 to help fund Chou Hall.

undergraduate student group in the haas courtyard
Undergraduate students mingle in the Haas courtyard. Photo: Noah Berger

Emma Hayes Daftary, assistant dean of the undergraduate program, told the students that “the DLPs will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish.”

“We are living in a time of tremendous global transition, and within this time of upheaval and transition comes an urgent call for informed, collaborative, effective leaders,” she said. “There are urgent issues that are facing us—urgent issues that will require extraordinary leadership to develop and execute solutions to solve them.”

PhD program

The PhD program welcomed its largest-ever cohort of 19 new students from around the world—including Russia, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, Nigeria, Portugal, Canada, and Germany.

New students include Abdulmuttolib (Abdul) Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner,  Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, Nathan Godin, Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw.

View PhD student profiles here.

new Phd students at Haas in a group photo in Chou Hall
(From back row left-right) Abdulmuttolib Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner,  Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, and Nathan Godin. Missing from photo: Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw. Photo: Jim Block