When it comes to negotiation, women need a big “help wanted” sign. Researcher Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon specializes in negotiation and dispute resolution. Babcock’s research shows women have a strong dislike for negotiation, and they engage far less than men in negotiations that would result in higher salaries and better jobs. In a recent study Babcock asked men and women to pick metaphors that describe the act of negotiating. Women most often equated negotiating with “a trip to the dentist” while men chose “winning a ballgame.” So what’s going on here?
Some of the root cause lies in the way many women were raised. In our past, to be outspoken, to challenge authority, to ask for more, was not considered lady-like. On top of societal norms, add a layer of law. Just one generation ago many states still required a man’s signature for many transactions initiated by a woman. It has only been 28 years since congress passed a law prohibiting states from requiring a man’s signature on a woman’s application for a business loan. Other factors that may add to women’s distaste for negotiation: fear of rejection, lack of confidence, and associating negotiation with greed are just a few.
The lack of negotiating skills among women may be one of the single largest contributing factors to the wage stagnation we’ve seen in the last decade. A recent Pew Research study shows women still make 20% less than men. It’s not surprising that Babcock’s research shows that men are more likely to negotiate starting salaries:
“In one study, eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries. The men who negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000. In the same study, men’s starting salaries were about $4,000 higher than the women’s on average, suggesting that the gender gap between men and women might have been closed if more of the women had negotiated their starting salaries.”
Negotiation affects far more than salary. Solid negotiating skills are needed to succeed in a variety of ways. Want to be assigned to a new and exciting project? You may need to negotiate how your current workload can be delegated. Making a big pitch to a client? You may need to negotiate the terms of the deal. Raising money for a volunteer cause? Good negotiating skills could mean the difference between a $50 and a $5,000 gift. Getting a toddler dressed? That may be the toughest negotiation of all!
This week Momentum welcomes internationally known speaker and negotiation consultant Carol Frohlinger to Birmingham. Carol is co-author of Her Place at the Table and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It. This Thursday Carol with conduct an all-day training course for our current Momentum Leadership Class. This training will unpack the skills needed to seize opportunities to negotiate, line up the necessary resources, and gain buy-in from stakeholders.
During the class we’ll hear some of the shared experiences our women have in negotiating. We look forward to sharing those here, along with insights from Carol’s training, next week.