Saturday, July 26, 2008

Women, Repeat This: Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Came across this interesting article in NYTimes by LINDA BABCOCK. The author says that women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to promote their goals and wishes. Women should learn how to assess and strengthen their bargaining power; research, prepare and practice before their negotiations; and use strategies that won’t make them seem threatening and provoke a backlash. Some highlights -

ABOUT 10 years ago, I heard that my boss was recommending two of my male colleagues for promotion. Both of these men had joined the faculty the same year I was hired, both were good teachers, and both had published important research. They were certainly qualified to move to the next level, from associate professor to full professor.

But so was I. I figured it was just a matter of time before my boss stopped by my office with the good news that he was promoting me, too. So I waited. And waited. As time passed, it became clear that I might be waiting a very long time.

Finally, I worked up the nerve to talk to him about it. I vividly remember his reaction. A big smile spread across his face. “Well, let’s promote you, too!” he said.

When my two male colleagues had asked to be promoted, my boss, seeing that they met all the requirements, readily agreed. Since he was a busy man, he didn’t stop to think about who else was ready for promotion. A question was posed, he answered it, and he went on to the next problem.

About three years later, I held my boss’s job. While hiring two people with similar credentials, a woman and a man, I made each the same salary offer. The woman accepted the offer without negotiating. The man bargained hard, and I had to raise his offer by about 10 percent before he would agree to it.

In between these two events, I watched similar situations play out among my students and friends. Time and again, I saw women accept the status quo, take what they were offered and wait for someone else to decide what they deserved. Men asked for what they wanted and usually got what they asked for.

Prompted by these experiences, I started a research project with several colleagues to study how and when men and women initiate negotiations. In my book “Women Don’t Ask,” I laid out overwhelming evidence that women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to promote their goals and wishes.