I want to revisit the “women and negotiation” topic for a brief moment here, because I’m working through something. In practically everything I read on the subject, I’m told that women negotiate differently than men. They are less confident, don’t like to speak about their accomplishments, try too hard to be liked, are subconsciously attempting to avoid being called “bossy” or “pushy” (I should disclose that I’m more or less on the #banbossy bandwagon). Research shows that women don’t apply for jobs at the same rate men do, because they don’t consider themselves qualified.
You’re probably going to assume I’m here to challenge these studies. Well, yes and no. I don’t like how they are designed to tell women how they fail at the negotiating table, imparting all sorts of wisdom on what not to do. It’s a lot less helpful than telling women what they can do. There are two primary things I think women need to focus on in order to have more success at the bargaining table: channeling their own altruism, and self-confidence.
This post will only tackle that first point, which may seem a bit unusual. Channel their altruism? Here’s what I mean. In a 2009 study in the Journal of Personality Social Psychology, Emily Amanatullah of the University of Texas devised an experiment to test negotiation ability. In a job-opportunity simulation, she had women and men negotiate a starting salary for themselves. Then, she asked the same participants to negotiate a salary for another participant. She found that “when the women the women negotiated for themselves, they asked for an average of $7,000 less than the men. But when they negotiated on behalf of a friend, they asked for just as much money as the men. Amanatullah says when women advocate for themselves, they have to navigate more than a higher salary: They’re managing their reputation, too. Women worry that pushing for more money will damage their image. Research shows they’re right to be concerned: Both male and female managers are less likely to want to work with women who negotiate during a job interview.” (Source: Why Women Don’t Ask for More Money, from NPR’s Planet Money, April 8, 2014).
Putting aside the managers, who are clearly dealing with their own biases regarding feminism, let’s focus on that other interesting point: women are equally as capable as men of negotiating. When they do so on behalf of a friend, they get just as much money as men. So how do we use that spirit of altruism and capability for negotiation to help women advocate for themselves? I have no answers to this yet, but I think there’s something there.