Hannah Riley Bowles is the Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Hannah the chairs HKS Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences (MLD) Area and co-directs the HKS Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP). She is a leading expert on how gender influences pay negotiations and more broadly on negotiation as a micro-mechanism of inequality. Her current research focuses on women's leadership advancement, examining both situational barriers and individual strategies. Her research appears in academic publications, such as the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Organization Science, Psychological Science, and Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Her research has been featured in major news media, including ABC News, National Public Radio, New York Times, Slate Magazine, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and TIME. She teaches “Conflict & Collaboration” in the MPP core curriculum and is the faculty director of Women & Power, the HKS executive program for women in senior leadership from the public, private and non-profit sectors. She won the HKS Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003. She has been actively involved in negotiation and conflict management training, practice, and research for over 25 years, including early career opportunities to work for the governments of Argentina, Costa Rica, and Germany. She has a DBA from the Harvard Business School, an MPP from HKS, and a BA from Smith College.

Recent Publications

Bowles, Hannah Riley, May Al Dabbagh, and Bobbi Thomason. “Anticipated Status Decline for Locals Entering Global Employment Markets”. (2014). Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Qualitative research on multi-national work life has begun to illuminate how status hierarchies emerge and are maintained between workers more closely aligned with the dominant global business culture (e.g., Anglo-Americans) and those attempting to assimilate from other cultural backgrounds. In two studies, we compare the psychological experience of global and national job markets for university students from a rapidly globalizing emerging market. We recruited study participants from national universities in the Arab Gulf in which students are trained in English for work in global business markets. Negatively stereotyped as “lazy locals” in the Western-dominated global work culture, we find that male nationals feel more reticent to negotiate for career rewards (viz., compensation) in a global (versus local) business context (Study 1) and that they are more negatively evaluated by their peers for attempting to negotiate for higher pay in a global (vs. local) business context. Replicating U.S. studies, in the local business context we find that female (versus male) nationals feel more reticent to negotiate for higher pay (Study 1) and are more negatively evaluated when they do (Study 2). There were no gender differences in the propensity to negotiate or in the evaluation of negotiators in the global work context. In Study 2, mediation analyses support the proposition that, for male nationals in the global work culture, negotiating for higher compensation violates prescriptions of low-status behavior (viz., communality). Evaluators penalize female negotiators for a lack of communality, but also for perceived immodesty and materialism. We discuss implications for the study of global-local status hierarchies in multi-national employment contexts.

Lai, L, Hannah Riley Bowles, and Linda Babcock. “Social costs of setting high aspirations in competitive negotiation”. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 61 (2013): , 6, 1, 1-12. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article explores the implications of a negotiator setting high aspirations on the counterpart's assessments of the negotiator and future cooperation toward the negotiator. Participants were 134 undergraduates acting as buyers or sellers in a single-issue price negotiation. Buyers received instructions to set more or less ambitious aspirations. Buyers who set more ambitious aspirations achieved better economic outcomes. However, sellers paired with buyers setting more ambitious aspirations found their buyers to be less likeable, expressed less willingness to cooperate with them in the future, and behaved less generously toward them in a postnegotiation dictator game. The perceived likeability of the buyer explained why the sellers were less willing to cooperate in the future with buyers who had set more ambitious aspirations. This research contributes to the understanding of the downside of setting high aspirations in a competitive negotiation and provides implications on balancing one-time economic gain with future social loss.

Bowles, Hannah Riley, and Linda Babcock. “How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer”. Psychology of Women Quarterly 37 (2013): , 37, 80-96. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Policy makers, academics, and media reports suggest that women could shrink the gender pay gap by negotiating more effectively for higher compensation. Yet women entering compensation negotiations face a dilemma: They have to weigh the benefits of negotiating against the social consequences of having negotiated. Research shows that women are penalized socially more than men for negotiating for higher pay. To address this dilemma, the authors test strategies to help women improve both their negotiation and social outcomes in compensation negotiations.

In Study 1, communicating concern for organizational relationships improved female negotiators’ social outcomes, and offering a legitimate account for compensation requests improved negotiation outcomes. However, neither strategy—alone or in combination—improved both women’s social and negotiation outcomes.

Study 2 tested two strategies devised to improve female negotiators’ social and negotiation outcomes by explaining why a compensation request is legitimate in relational terms. Results showed that, although adherence to the feminine stereotype is insufficient, using these “relational accounts” can improve women’s social and negotiation outcomes at the same time. Normative implications of conformity to gender stereotypes to reduce gender pay disparities are discussed.



Office Address


Mailing Address

Harvard Kennedy School
Mailbox 124
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138


Phone: 617-496-4717
Fax: 617-496-2850


Greg Dorchak (617-496-8304)