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Women get a lot of criticism for being less effective negotiators, and statistically, they deserve it.
In her book “Women Don’t Ask for It,” Linda C. Babcock of Carnegie Mellon’s Negotiation Academy for Women offers these surprising insights into women’s negotiating behaviors:
- 20 percent. The percentage of adult women, which equals one out of every five women, who say they never negotiate at all even when they should.
- 30 percent. Women negotiating for their salaries ask for 30 percent less than men in the same situation.
- Four times as often. Men initiate negotiations four times more frequently than women.
- Like a trip to the dentist. When asked to compare negotiation to another activity, women chose “going to the dentist” most frequently. Men, on the other hand, chose “winning a ballgame.”
A major reason women get less pay is that they’re less likely to ask for it. When they do ask for it, both males and other females are more likely to judge them negatively. According to researchers, both men and women say that they were less likely to hire a female applicant who is assertive about negotiating her salary. Fortunately, even though negotiating can seem like a no-win scenario, women can effectively bargain for better pay by following a few simple tips.
Lessons From Lawyers
Universities enroll more men than women in MBA programs Also, when women graduate from business school they earn 93 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This might be a good reason for women with MBAs to become entrepreneurs and set their own salaries (for information on how MBAs can help entrepreneurs, read this article). When it comes to issues of lower earning potential in a regular office, on many occasions, women simply aren’t asking for as much money. They worry, rightly so in many areas, that they’ll experience negative consequences if they ask.
However, according to a study in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, one profession manages to escape the gender disparity when it comes to negotiations. In a survey of lawyers asked to rate other lawyers following their most recent negotiation, both male and female lawyers were described with the same adjectives, including words like “ethical,” “personable” and “confident.” In fact, women were more likely to be described as assertive, but the perception of assertiveness didn’t affect their likeability.
The study’s authors became curious about what protects female attorneys from being considered unfeminine after an aggressive negotiation. They offered three possible explanations in their paper:
- Women at the top are expected to be assertive. A female lawyer might be viewed as someone who has “made it” in her profession. Since she’s expected to be in charge, she’s expected to be assertive.
- Lawyers are expected to negotiate. Negotiating is an accepted part of the lawyer’s role. Because female attorneys were performing their jobs competently, they were viewed favorably.
- They worked on behalf of others. Female lawyers were negotiating on behalf of their clients, which the study’s authors suggest may have activated the common “nurturing” stereotype.
How Women Can Negotiate Effectively
If female lawyers can avoid gender stereotypes during negotiation, then so can other women. In some cases, they can turn stereotypes into advantages and play to their strengths. Before entering their next negotiation, women should keep the following tips in mind:
- Smile. Smile a lot. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, says that women succeed in negotiations when they are “relentlessly pleasant.”
- Justify the request. Use evidence to back up the request for more money by bringing industry statistics. Alternatively, they can justify the negotiation by saying that “a manager suggested I discuss my compensation with you.”
- Take a problem-solving approach. Women should point out the company’s struggles and emphasize that onboarding or retaining them at a better salary could be the answer to those problems.
- Be nurturing. When negotiating, women should express concern and cite common interests with their opponents. Like the female lawyers, they should take advantage of the nurturer stereotype.
- Use “we” instead of “I.” Women should speak communally, discussing their accomplishments as team accomplishments.
In It to Win It
Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote about negotiation in her book “Lean In,” points out that it may seem frustrating to play into feminine stereotypes during negotiation. However, these methods are just a means to an end. As women begin to occupy more top offices and earn better salaries, they’ll position themselves to eliminate gender stereotypes for good.