NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Christine L. Exley

Harvard Business School

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2016Knowing When to Ask: The Cost of Leaning In
with Muriel Niederle, Lise Vesterlund: w22961
Gender differences in the propensity to negotiate are often used to explain the gender wage gap, popularizing the push for women to “lean-in.” We use a laboratory experiment to examine the effect of leaning-in. Despite men and women achieving similar and positive returns when they must negotiate, we find that women avoid negotiations more often than men. While this suggests that women would benefit from leaning-in, a direct test of the counterfactual proves otherwise. Women appear to positively select into negotiations and to know when to ask. By contrast, we find no significant evidence of a positive selection for men.
 
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