When Women Don’t Ask co-author Linda Babcock was director of a Ph.D. program, "a delegation of women graduate students came to her office. Many of the male graduate students were teaching courses of their own, the women explained, while most of the female graduate students had been assigned to work as teaching assistants to regular faculty. Linda agreed that this didn’t sound fair, and that afternoon she asked the associate dean who handled teaching assignments about the women’s complaint. She received a simple answer: ‘I try to find teaching opportunities for any student who approaches me with a good idea for a course, the ability to teach, and a reasonable offer about what it will cost,’ he explained. ‘More men ask. The women just don’t ask.’"
In subsequent research conducted by Linda Babcock as a result of the surprising comment from the associate dean, she discovered that "women were much less likely than men to see the benefits and importance of asking for what they want." Reasons for this pattern include societal messages that "nice girls don’t ask" and historical patterns of women’s contributions to the workplace being valued less than men’s. As a result, Babcock and Laschever argue that women expect less than men, have more difficulty assigning value to their work than men. They also cite other research demonstrating that women tend to have a more "external locus of control" (perception that their fate is influenced more by external factors than internal factors) than men, also likely due to historical and cultural influences associated with women’s place in society. What’s a woman to do?
- Start by re-evaluating the strength of your position or value in the negotation, re-consider what you might be able to achieve, and begin to develop better awareness of when you should be asking for more instead of settling for less.
- Research suggests that women are uncomfortable in conflict and competition—and therefore in negotiation—because we have a strong urge to foster and protect relationships. There are ways to negotiate that minimize or eliminate damaging conflict and don’t damage the relationship. You can change the negotiation game!
- Educate yourself in the practices of "integrative negotiation" and practice the key mindsets and skills. Take a workshop or do some reading (start with Deborah Kolb’s Her Place at the Table and William Ury’s Getting to Yes and Getting Past No).
- Keep in mind that integrative (win-win) negotiation is hot now and has gained respect in the corporate and political world as an effective way to negotiate everything from employment packages to business-to-business contracts to household responsibilities. Because integrative negotiation places value on the relationship during the negotiation, there are some who suggest women actually have a leg up in this kind of negotiating, since it more naturally fits our more cooperative way of bargaining.
- Find a negotiation coach who’s well versed in conflict resolution and strategic negotiation, as well as women’s leadership and workplace issues. If you’d like to discuss the negotiation coaching services I offer, I’m always just a phone call or email away.