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Why Women Don't Negotiate as Much as Men

Savvy Interview: Why You Should Ask For More at Work

I had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Linda Babcock, a Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on women and negotiation. Her most recent book, Ask For It, explores the reasons why negotiating is necessary and how to go about asking for more. She was a pleasure to interview, so intelligent and good humored, with an arsenal of interesting observations and tips. To see what Linda shared with me about her experiences and women negotiating just

SavvySugar: Was there a specific instance that got you interested in the topic of women and negotiating?

Linda Babcock: I've been teaching at Carnegie Mellon for over twenty years and was never interested in gender differences until I directed a PhD program. The female students came to me and asked why the male students were teaching the courses, while they were all teaching assistants. The men hadn’t been chosen over the women, they had asked to teach. The women hadn’t considered it and were waiting to be asked. Men and women differ in the way they get what they want and men initiate more negotiation.

SS: What have you found to be the biggest reasons women don’t negotiate?

LB: There are two reasons. The first is socialization that teaches girls not to push or be greedy or selfish, while boys are taught to go after what they want. Books, movies, and TV all contribute to the messages kids receive and develop different personalities in how to get what they want. The second reason is that women are met with a chillier reaction for negotiation — people don’t like when we’re aggressive. So women are worried about how to approach a negotiation by coming on too strong. New research shows that women are most successful when they approach negotiations in a relational oriented, cooperative, problem solving way rather than copying men and using a more aggressive approach.

SS: So what lessons can we teach our daughters that will help them be better negotiators as adults?

LB: Teach them to negotiate! Make it an ingrained behavior so that it eventually comes naturally to them. I started an organization called Progress to teach young girls to negotiate, and now there’s even a Girl Scouts badge for negotiation.

SS: How does a woman lose by failing to negotiate? What are the consequences?

LB: If a woman doesn’t negotiate her salary for her first job, she can potentially lose $750,000 over the course of her career. That’s how much she can lose from a one time negotiation. We don’t usually think about the long run consequences of not negotiating, but it’s really a snowball effect.

SS: Is anything at work negotiable?

LB: I often challenge my students to go out and find something that’s not negotiable, and it’s actually pretty difficult. I say that everything at work is up for grabs — projects, raises, salaries, hours, more responsibility — everything can be negotiated.

Join The Conversation
glitterandgold glitterandgold 9 years
I want this book! Does anyone have it? I was planning to ask for a raise next month.
advo advo 9 years
Ahh, interesting. But a bit of bad news for me though, I was offered a wage increase instead of negotiating. Does that mean I will lose out on money because of the snowball-effect?
carhornsinapril carhornsinapril 9 years
i need to read this book... negotiating is so difficult. i'm a nice girl at heart.
amybdk amybdk 9 years
I wonder the same thing, bellaressa
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
I feel like everyone in Publishing is making the same amount as I am ... I don't see how my work is any different than what other people are doing that it warrants asking for a raise.
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
great interview, insightful advice. as someone just getting started in the professional world, i wish i had negotiated more at my first job. because you never know unless you ask.
ChicaCity ChicaCity 9 years
I think this is great advice - socialization of children is so different between boys and girls and it's good that people are becoming aware of the consequences!
SoCalSugar SoCalSugar 9 years
I love that there's a girl scout badge for negotiations now! Women are more relational, so it makes sense to approach salary negotiations in this way, it just never occurred to me before!
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks Savvy, this is eye opening. I have a question: I tried to negotiate my salary for my current position and they weren't having it. They basically gave me a salary and that was it. How long should I wait to revisit the salary question?
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Wow! That is crazy!
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