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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.

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