Gender Differences in Military Negotiations

Women employed in the military are continuously exposed to explicit and implicit bias based on gender due to their stereotypical perception of their diminished capabilities compared with men. The manifestations of sexism are apparent throughout various aspects of combat-related experiences, from physical training to negotiations. While the military sphere is attributed to masculine characteristics on a general scale, military negotiations are also perceived as better performed by men due to their ability to express power and influence. However, under the circumstances of the contemporary tendency of an extensive inclusion of females in the military forces, women tend to play a more significant r1991)le in the execution of multiple combat tasks at different levels of responsibility. The level of their expertise in negotiations does not depend on their gender-specific characteristics but is reliant on their skills, which is why women are capable of being effective communicators in the military sphere. Gender stereotypes in negotiations diminish the integrity of females in the armed forces. This paper aims to identify gender differences in military negotiations to explore the ground for equality between men and women.

Military Culture

To understand the issues related to military negotiations, one should be able to understand military culture and its specific features. The United States military forces are represented by several distinctive branches performing particular tasks. They include the Army with its Active component and two Reserve components, the Navy is responsible for maintaining and training naval forces, the United States Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the United States Coast Guard (Watson, 2013). All these branches have their own unique cultures and particularities, given the specifics of their goals and responsibilities. On a broad scale, the military is characterized by a vast presence of ranking, categorization, structural division, and subordination. The military personnel are commonly divided into three “categories of rank that include enlisted, warrant officers, and commissioned officers” (Watson, 2013). Also, when moving up the ranking, enlisted officers might obtain the rank of noncommissioned officers who have essential leadership duties.

Although different branches and ranks have different spheres of expertise, they all abide by strict rules and high standards of conduct. The readiness to respond to safety threats and resolve conflicts places those in combat at continuous risk and requires meticulous preparation and training. Given such a strict subdivision in the service and the responsibilities, clear communication between the units and individuals is an essential aspect of military culture. Negotiations that reach beyond orders and reports require a high level of skills to communicate tasks, coordinate the staff, perform day-to-day functions, conduct warfare and resolve armed conflicts. Thus, the particularities of military negotiations derive from the military culture.

Women in the Military Sphere

The demographics of the military are another critical issue that defines its implied culture. The gender representation of the staff in service is the aspect that is of high relevance to the topic at hand. The contemporary world goes through a process of extensive movement toward gender equality, which is manifested through females’ more frequent inclusion into spheres and professions commonly attributed with masculine features; the military is one of such spheres. Despite such a tendency, there are significantly fewer female officers and soldiers than males. Currently, women constitute only between 6 and 15 % of the military population in the USA (Watson, 2013). As of the year 2006, women constituted 15% of all Active components and 17% of all Reserve components of the US combat; the US Marine Corps employed the least number of female personnel members who comprised not more than 6% (Watson, 2013). However, the gender difference is manifested not only through the membership percentage.

With time, more women are willing to join the armed forces. Moreover, some national and international policies related to international relations and combat promote a higher level of inclusion of women. For example, the United Nations Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have embarked on campaigns aimed at the extensive inclusion of women in the military sphere (Avonius et al., n. d.; Krause et al., 2018). Despite this fact, women continue to face stereotypes “about who they are and how capably they perform their duties” (Trobaugh, 2018, p. 46). This tendency has a negative influence on the female experience in the military, as well as generates a vicious circle where continuous prejudice in social perception amplifies women’s assumed underperformance.

The Importance of Negotiations in the Military Sphere

It is commonly perceived that the style of communicating in the armed forces is characterized by subordination, omnipresent control, obedience to orders, and no questioning. However, the multifaceted nature of the military sphere, where individuals interact under a variety of circumstances and contexts, negotiations take place all the time. Diplomacy is one of the most important attributes of military service. The ability to communicate one’s message in an effective way is essential in both the organization of a unit’s operations and in interactions with the enemies. Despite the context, individuals in combat, especially leaders, “cannot operate and succeed in isolation” and must interact with others within the framework of a negotiating process (Eisen, 2019, p. 1). These negotiations vary from collaboration to conflict and require necessary skills, techniques, and knowledge to be able to complete one of the tasks, including goal achievement, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution.

The complexity of tasks the armed forces deal with, as well as the scope of responsibilities they take on define the importance of negotiation skills in the competency of a professional in this field. Indeed, the way one negotiates, in some situations, might determine the life-or-death outcomes. Moreover, often military personnel are placed in conditions where they have to perform outside their defined specialty and rank positions. Sometimes, officers need to mitigate issues with individuals over whom they have no authority (Eisen, 2019). Thus, it is necessary for military negotiators to obtain expertise in highly effective negotiations with fellow officers, subordinates, and civilians. Given such a high level of relevance of bargaining skills for combat, the specific gender-related features need to be addressed to identify their influence on the negotiation process and outcomes.

Gender Roles in Military Negotiations

Stereotypes in gender perception influence negotiation approaches and outcomes. Overall, stereotypes derive from people’s background, culture, beliefs, and values, which they instantly attribute to people or objects categorized on the basis of assumptions and generalization (“What are the causes of stereotypes,” n. d.). Gender stereotypes, in particular, include “social categories that individuals use to make inferences about how to behave and how to interpret other’s behavior based on one’s gender” (Shan et al., 2019, pp. 4-5). They impose cognitive bias by creating schemas of the proper and improper behavior of a certain gender during negotiations. Moreover, gender stereotypes define the way a negotiator perceives the opponent and what they expect from the negotiations, which implies differences in attitudes and treatment of men and women during the bargaining process (Shan et al., 2019). The impact of gender bias on the expectations, course, and outcomes of negotiations is omnipresent.

According to Fisher et al. (1991), for negotiations to be effective, one should separate people from the problem. This suggestion implies remaining objective about the opponent to negotiate over the substance of the bargaining and not the personal attributes. However, when perceived from the perspective of the military negotiations, this rule is not particularly followed. Female negotiators are attributed to less effective bargaining outcomes due to weaker skills and diminished capabilities in comparison to male negotiators’ performance. Indeed, on a wide scale, the effectiveness of negotiations is perceived to be dependent on gender-specific characteristics. The research found that “many of the traits that characterize effective negotiators are perceived to be masculine in nature, and many of the traits of ineffective negotiators are perceived to be feminine” (Thompson, 2006, p. 211). Thus, men are perceived to have an advantage in conducting more effective negotiations.

To illustrate this observation with particular skills and behavior examples, one might pertain to the claims of Shan et al. (2019), who identify several particularities in men’s negotiating skills. Research proves that men are “more likely women to set higher goals, initiate negotiations, make aggressive first offers, and follow-up with aggressive subsequent offers” (Shan et al., 2019, p. 5). However, these observations are not explained thoroughly due to the ambiguity of researchers’ opinions on the reason for such a difference, which might be either in inherent gender differences or the role of social conditioning that poses women in a weaker position. Given the masculinity of the military sphere combined with the predominantly male characteristics of effective negotiating skills, the burden of gender inequality for women becomes even more severe.

Despite the above-mentioned perceived disadvantages of female negotiators, women demonstrate a high level of effectiveness in military negotiations. According to Krause et al. (2018), peace negotiations conducted by women have better outcomes and contribute to more durable results. However, only approximately 15% of all peace negotiations and agreements are signed by women which make it rather an exception than a rule that women succeed in negotiations (Avonius et al., n. d.; Krause et al., 2018). Extensive research has proved that female voice and active participation in peace bargaining during military conflicts provide better outcomes than those conducted by men. Despite these findings, women are still underrepresented in military negotiations, which might be explained by the gender differences in status in the military sphere, where female leaders are less in number (Miles & Clenney, 2010). Therefore, it is vital to intensify the inclusion of women in the military spheres to eliminate gender inequality and facilitate the quality of military negotiations.


As the issues discussed in this paper show, the gender differences in the military demographics derive from the attributes of the military culture and ultimately affect the effectiveness of female-led negotiations. The overall perceived masculinity of the military service places women in a diminished position where they must over-perform their duties to prove their capabilities in comparison with men. From the perspective of negotiations, stereotypes imply women’s weaker skills and worse negotiation outcomes due to the masculine attributes of effective bargaining. However, as the case of women’s peace negotiations shows, females are effective negotiators regardless of gender characteristics. Therefore, it is critical to eliminate gender bias in the military to expand the opportunities for women in combat.


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