- Black job seekers are expected to negotiate less than their white counterparts, according to a new study, "Bargaining while Black: The role of race in salary negotiations." Authored by Derek Avery, the David C. Darnell presidential chair in Principled Leadership at Wake Forest University School of Business and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the research included experiments with equally qualified black and white candidates. In the first study, researchers found that more biased evaluators predict black job seekers to negotiate less than white job seekers.
- In the second study, when black candidates defied those expectations, evaluators gave them lower starting salaries. In the third study, research showed that this was because evaluators grow more resistant to give better salaries to black job seekers than white ones.
- "Previous research has demonstrated that black men expect lower starting salary offers, and also may not have the same foundation to confidently know what fair market value they can command," Avery said. "But the hiring process shows it's not just the job seeker's mindset that must change. Hiring managers who negotiate with black candidates also bring their biases to the table."
The results from this survey aren't so surprising, unfortunately. Past research and court cases have shown that racial bias has long been part of the recruiting, hiring and promoting processes. A PayScale survey showed a correlation between the pay gap for black employees and salary requests or negotiations. Although the survey showed no statistical difference in the rate at which people of color and whites asked for a raise, people of color, both women and men, were less likely to receive a raise when requesting one. And last year, the EEOC sued a Tampa-based janitorial service that refused to hire a class of African Americans because of their race, an act that violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The challenge for employers that are trying to maintain a fair and inclusive work environment is that bias isn't always easy to detect. But research like Avery's can make employers more aware of the adverse effects of discriminatory practices.
HR must step in to see that recruiters and hiring managers are treating equally qualified job applicants fairly. Not all candidates or employees negotiate their salaries; studies show that women are sometimes less likely to negotiate pay than men. Also, hiring managers often have a set pay rate in mind when considering a candidate, but they should be prepared to bargain with anyone who chooses to do so.