Negotiating Workplace Equality: A Systemic Approach

  • Susan Sturm


Negotiations can operate as powerful engines of inequality, often because of the institutional and social context placing women and people of color at a systemic disadvantage. Yet, negotiation literature and practice has paid little attention to the question of how to reshape the context within which negotiations proceed. This article provides an approach for connecting individual level negotiations with institutional interventions that reshape the context for those negotiations, so that women and people of color can fully and fairly participate in the interactions and decisions so crucial to their advancement. It first lays out the systemic underpinnings of negotiated inequality, identifying structural disparities in information, networks, cognitive frames, and ground rules. It then identifies the role of organizational catalysts in reshaping the contours within which negotiations occur, and learning from the successes and failures of negotiations aggregated over time and place. Finally, it identifies a set of strategies for tackling the systemic underpinnings of inequality in the negotiation process, including (1) critical reframing through root cause analysis, (2) generating and mobilizing information, (3) developing social capital needed for effective negotiation, (4) creating and connecting opportunity networks, and (5) developing constituencies of accountability.

Keywords: systemic change, full participation, second generation discrimination, negotiation

How to Cite:

Sturm, S., (2009) “Negotiating Workplace Equality: A Systemic Approach”, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 2(1), 92-106. doi:

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
18 Jan 2009
Peer Reviewed