More on women and negotiation

Women Don’t Ask leads with an elegant little study showing that a striking $4000 salary differential between men and women masters graduates was explained by women’s reluctance to negotiate.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine called to ask for advice. She’d been offered a job she wanted. She asked me if it was appropriate to ask for a higher salary and to negotiate start date. She wondered if asking might lead them to rescind the offer.
Men are more likely to see negotiation as an enjoyable game, according to surveys reported in the book — they look forward to negotiating. Women more likely see negotiation as an uncomfortable experience. Women see negotiation in the context of a relationship, and are concerned that pushing too hard will damage the relationship.
Another reason that women are reluctant to negotiate is that women are more likely to believe that the other party has already taken her interest into account. The book recounts stories where women didn’t receive promotions — they assumed that the boss had a good reason not to offer them the better job. When the woman finally asked, she got what she wanted, and the boss wondered why it took her so long to ask.
A survey in the book shows that most men don’t think they’re responsible to start with the other party’s interest in mind, and most women do. So, if a man gives an unnattractive offer, it’s not necessarily because he’s trying to screw the other party, he just hasn’t thought the party’s interest through, and doesn’t think he needs to.
The bad news is that women are in a bit of a bind — if they’re aggressive like men, they’re branded bitches and dragon-ladies. When women are perceived as tough, they’re disliked. Assertiveness doesn’t keep men from being liked.
So women need to walk a fine line — we need to be a little self-effacing, a little self-deprecating, even while negotiating with our interests in mind.
The good news is that with training and encouragement, women can learn to negotiate more often, and achieve better results. And, because women are better on average at seeing “win-win” solutions, we’re really good at negotiation once we overcome the initial reluctance, and learn to be persistent without being abrasive.
The book has some chapters with familiar and unoriginal arguments about the differences in socialization between men and women. The substance of the book is good research and analysis on gender differences in negotiating behavior.
Of course, gender differences are tendencies, not rules. I know guys who are reluctant to negotiate, and women who are masters of hardball. Gender is a useful lens, not the only one.
Summary: I recommend this book strongly to women, to men who interact with women, and to people of any gender who are reluctant to negotiate.

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