The Effects of Communication on Women’s Pay


Research has shown that differences in male and female communication has negatively affected women’s pay. Understanding the implications of women’s communication in the workplace or regarding the workplace is critical to understanding the overall impact of communication itself to the economy.

Besides economy, understanding how gendered communication affects a person’s life is critical when investigating subjects such as sexism. Workplace sexism is pervasive.

Women tend to subdue their ambitions in the workplace because women are taught at a young age that female-bodied people use rapport communication as opposed to report style talk used by male-bodied people. Rapport talk focuses on making relationships, connections with others, and showing empathy. 1 Report talk refers to the type of talk that male-bodied people tend to use where they will talk about their ambitions, tasks at hand, asserting oneself, and competition. 1 People who use this type of talk often use it as a way to fulfill goals and enhance their masculinity. Report talk is often seen as opposite of rapport talk where men who tend to use this talk, do not want to show any vulnerabilities. For people who use rapport talk, communication is the basis for relationships.

Women are taught and often engage in rapport talk, which can involve women to use the words: “I think” or “I feel” rather than just saying what they’re opinion.

The way that most women talk may affect their chances of either getting a job or a raise.

Background and Research Process

Previous research shows that there isn’t a significant performance difference between men and women in the same job.2 The gender pay wage gap is due to the fact women get jobs that are not leadership or managerial jobs because females are often seen as unfit for leadership jobs.

Even though women are more likely to graduate high school than men, there still is a pay wage gap between the sexes and on average, women have less job experience.2

There are several influences that may have led to women earning less than men in regards to gender communication such as differing negotiation tactics between the sexes, perceived notions of what type of work women want to pursue by the company, and how society treats female leaders different from male leaders.

Differences in negotiations between the sexes is influenced by what job she or he participants in or wishes to participate in. 4 Differences in negotiations may be due to the fact that women and men face different opportunities. Also, women may have lower pay expectations than men. 4 Women may have lower confidence and negotiate differently from men. 4

The results found by Barry Gerhart and Sara Rynes suggested that, “the propensity to negotiate is a function of structural factors that influence a potential negotiator’s relative bargaining power.” 4 This means that the tendency to negotiate relies on external circumstances that either lessen or strengthen the negotiator’s power in the negotiation.

Indeed, the results in the study did not show differences in negotiation between the sexes, but in the results, women had less payoff (2.7%) than men (4.3%). Additionally, if women in the study’s sample adjusted their education, training, and experience to that of men’s, then it would take them about 10 years to catch up to them. 4

In the study observed by Michelle Marks and Crystal Harold, they found that women negotiate as much as men, but did not raise their salaries. 5 The researchers cited an earlier study that found that women use slightly more cooperative techniques in negotiations than men. In another study, however, women showed more competitiveness when in a competitive environment. 5

Another discovery that Harold and Marks found was that 57.7 percent of people from the sample got at least one non-salary gain such as more vacation time or better benefits. 5

Women tend to get segregated into specific jobs they are either good at or perceived to be good at. 2,3 Women, as young girls, are taught to have stereotypical female roles.3 Common stereotypes of women are affectionate, friendly, sympathetic, sensitive, and sentimental. 3 Because of these stereotypes, women are pigeonholed into jobs that require these skills such as clerical, professional, or customer service jobs.2,3

Additionally, female managers tend to use different type of leadership style as opposed to males, which is often seen less valuable than the type of leadership style males tend to use. Since 2012, women only account for 5 percent of the top executive positions. 3

Men tend to use transactional leadership where a leader will use rewards in tradeoffs for compliance to their wishes. 3 Women tend to use transformational leadership where leaders use their ability to inspire their followers. 3 These kind of leaders help their subordinates become the best people they can become. 3 This approach is similar to how most women communicate and treat others. 3 While transactional leaders often are task and control oriented. 3

The popular notion is that the leadership style that women tend to use is less valuable than what men use. Often women are seen as unsuitable for leadership positions.

Research suggests that women are socially emotional in situations whereas men are independent and unemotional. Researchers, regards to gender communication and gender differences, have found that women are at a disadvantage to men. When women use rapport talk they are often seen as subordinate to men.

Indeed, women in leadership roles have a disadvantage to men in which they focus on relationships rather than their accomplishments in their speech. Women tend to talk together about their stresses. This type of communication may affect workplace situations such as when a woman asks for a raise at the company.

According to researchers, men tend to want to feel admired and women tend to want to feel devoted and respected. In the article about gendered communication Merchant mentioned that, “when attempting to resolve a problem, men follow their natural tendency to offer a solution while women seek empathy and understanding and are naturally inclined to offer unsolicited advice (Gray, 1992). These natural tendencies often create a rift between men when communicating with the opposite sex as men and women approach conversations differently.”

Sources included the article, “How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership Styles” by Karima Merchant. It is an interesting senior thesis from Claremont McKenna college that deals with the implications of gender communication where the student and author of the thesis, Merchant, describes how women use talk as opposed to men. In the thesis, Merchant explains that other researchers have found that women tend to weaken their speech. Merchant said that this may be due to how they feel their status is compared to men. They fear of saying something wrong. 3


  1. Defrancisco, Victoria Pruin. Palczewski, Catherine Helen (2014). Gender Communication. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc. Print.
  2. Blau, Francine, D. Kahn, Lawrence, M (2007). “The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?” Retrieved April 2018 from
  3. Merchant, Karina (2012). “How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership, retrieved April 2018 from,
  4. Barry, Gerhart. Rhynes, Sara (1991). Determinants and Consequences of Salary Negotiations by Male and Female Graduates. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 76. No. 2, 256 – 262
  5. Marks, Michelle. Harold, Crystal (2009). “Who asks and who receives in salary negotiation.” Journal of Organizational behavior. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 371 – 394 (2011). Wiley Online Library DOI: 10. 1002/job.671, retrieved April 2018.
  6. Bowles, Hannah Riley. Babcock, Linda. Lai, Lei (2006). Social incentives for gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations: Sometimes it does hurt to ask. ScienceDirect. Journal of Organizational behavior. J. Organiz. 103 (2007) 84-103
  7. Small, Deborah A. Babcock, Linda. Gelfand, Michele. Gettman, Hilary (2007). “Who Goes to the Bargaining Table? The Influence of Gender and Framing on the Initiation of Negotiation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 93, No. 4, 600 – 613
  8. O’Shea, Patrick Gavan. Bush, David F (2002). Negotiation for starting salary: antecedents and outcomes among recent college graduates. Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 3, Spring 2002.
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