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May 12, 2015

Can Men and Women Negotiate Equally?

Business

Jeff Cochran

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Perhaps nothing is debated more than the differences between how men and women negotiate. Many employees worry that men and women can’t negotiate equally, and cite examples of how the glass ceiling can affect these discussions. The truth is, our culture generally rewards men who negotiate well, but not women. Women can negotiate successfully for higher salaries, better hours, and other things they need. At Shapiro, we want to level the playing field.

Ask for What You Want

In their book, Women Don’t Ask, authors Sara Laschever and Linda Babcock contend that women don’t have what they want in their careers because, generally, women don’t ask. This applies to everything from raises to time off, from potential for advancement to more exciting assignments. The two authors have discovered that, as a result, women sacrifice over half a million dollars in the course of their careers and advance more slowly than men.

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Many women of all ages are hesitant to speak up because they fear being assertive will make them look uncooperative and bossy. The truth is, not asking makes a woman look like a doormat.  While many women are good at negotiating for others, they’re hesitant to do so for themselves. If you are a woman facing negotiations, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Know Your Value

Just like men, women need to do research before negotiating, especially in salary negotiations. Part of this involves knowing exactly what your skills are and what they’re worth in today’s market. Research how much people of both sexes with your skills or in your position are getting paid in your company or competing ones. Present these figures to your employer as evidence for why you deserve what you’re asking for. Negotiation training can help you learn how to capitalize on your strengths and make negotiations feel more natural and less stressful.

Look Through Your Lens

Many employees think only older women have problems negotiating. While women in their 40s and 50s can find negotiations difficult, younger women aren’t exempt. Your negotiation skills and comfort level depend on what was normal for you growing up, no matter what era you were born in. If you came from a patriarchal family, you’re more likely to feel uncomfortable questioning men in any context. Conversely, if most of the people who raised you were female, you may feel comfortable negotiating but be unprepared for masculine approaches and arguments. Don’t allow your gender to rule negotiations, but don’t discount it, either.

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Be Yourself

A great number of women hesitate to negotiate because they think gender biases are already working against them. For example, a woman with a male boss might say, “I don’t want to ask him for a raise because if I get too excited, he’ll think I’m being emotional.” This attitude sets you up to fail. Remember that no one wants to get emotional during negotiations or say anything inappropriate – it’s not “a woman thing,” no matter what past attitudes may have been. Learn how to be comfortable in these situations rather than putting up a front – negotiation training can help you feel comfortable being yourself and asking for what you need.

Learn From Others

Part of learning to negotiate successfully involves watching others negotiate, both men and women. Be willing to learn from others’ successes and mistakes. Ask the women around you what worked or didn’t for them – and ask the men the same question. Learn from mentors and coworkers when the best times are to negotiate, and how best to negotiate for different things.

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