By Emily Hoagland
It’s January, and for Ladies America that means our theme of the month is ‘Negotiation.’ In additional to educational online content on our blog, Ladies America is offering a 4-week course on Negotiation taught by expert Stephanie Goetsch!
I, myself, am not much of a negotiator, despite having an in-depth (if mainly theoretical) understanding of its importance for women in the business world. My own academic interests in gender and fundraising were greatly informed by the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock. Babcock explores the gender inequalities created and perpetuated over time by the reluctance of many women to negotiate for things like starting salaries and, even more importantly, raises (see graphic below). It is an eye-opening book and I can’t recommend it enough.
Unquestionably, negotiating is hard. It’s hard for everyone, but especially for the many women who hate asking for things for themselves. Asking for money, a better deal or benefits for oneself flouts the still powerful stereotype of women as altruistic givers, not instrumental receivers/takers. That’s why developing that initial mindset – the one that says it’s ok to ask for something or even for something more – is one of the most important factors in becoming a good negotiator.
My academic research is focused on a particular type of negotiation: the power dynamics of fundraising and how they differ for men and women. Part of my argument is that successful fundraisers require a certain amount of power and thus, historically, women’s weaker positioning in terms of resources and networks (along with those still powerful gender stereotypes) made fundraising for their personal campaigns very difficult. But this is swiftly changing, as noted in a recent New York Times article: “As Fundraisers in Congress, Women Break the Cash Ceiling.” Women candidates are getting better at asking and finding high levels support among donors, particularly small donors.
Of course, it isn’t just in politics that women are becoming better negotiators. I recently finished a stint as a teaching assistant for an MBA Negotiations class. The experience was informative, especially since the students’ final project was to go out into the real world (previous assignments had all been staged negotiation case studies), negotiate for something, and write up the results. As the students were mostly second-year MBAs with job offers for the summer in hand, they tended to write about negotiating their signing bonus or the rental cost of their new apartments in New York, Boston, or London. There were a few oddities: two different individuals negotiated better deals from moving van agencies; a few people negotiated with housemates for more space or a different division of chores; one woman even negotiated with her fiancé for honeymoon plans more to her liking. Overall, the success rate was very high – upwards of 80%. You could argue that the stakes were relatively low, but the takeaway message remains clear – most things are negotiable and in most cases there’s very little harm in trying.
The men still did slightly better than the women, mostly because they asked for more from the beginning. But the differences were very small and the overall success rates were about equal. In those final papers, many of the women talked about what an eye-opening experience the class had been and went on to say they would certainly be negotiating far more in the future. Some of their words were inspiring enough that I think I’m going to follow their lead. It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and I’ve been thinking about joining a local gym for quite some time. So maybe I’ll do some research, get multiple quotes to create some bargaining leverage and try my hand at negotiating a better deal. After all, it can’t hurt to ask.
For more information about the 4-week long Ladies America Negotiation course starting on Tuesday, January 7th, click here.