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If It Is $, Women Don't Ask

Women can be their own worst enemies when it comes to getting what they want. All too often, they accept what is offered to them instead of insisting on what they deserve. That goes for everything from asking for a higher salary to requesting a little help at home. Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, co-authored a book on the subject called "Women Don't Ask."

According to the book, men initiate negotiation four times more than women. Babcock says the reason behind it goes back to the way girls are socialized while growing up. She explains, "They're taught to focus on the needs of others and not so much on their own needs and so when they get into a situation where they have to ask for something, they get extremely nervous and just don't do it."

So if you are looking for a raise, Babcock tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, there some ways to go about it. "One is by using your social and professional network asking around what other people make. You don't have to ask, 'Hannah, how much do you make. You can say how much do you think I should earn and that will give you a sense whether you're underpaid. Also sites on the Internet like salary.com and jobstar.org are great sources of information about what people in occupations like you make."

Another piece of advice she offers is role-playing the negotiation with friends. Babcock says, "Because of this anxiety that women have when they walk into negotiation, they need to practice and that means, you playing my boss, being tough on me, going a couple of rounds so that I can really feel a lot more confidence and self-control walking into the negotiation. It's very important for women."

And important also is going with the proper attitude. She says, "Unfortunately, for women, it matters how they ask. If a woman comes into a negotiation and she's perceived as being too competitive, too threatening, too aggressive, she may not be successful in getting what she wants. So a better way is maybe take a softer approach. Instead of saying, 'give me this raise or I'm going to leave,' she might frame it as, 'I'd like to have this raise. Can you do this so that I can stay?' It's a positive approach to negotiation, rather than trying to be too competitive."

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1:

Opportunity Doesn't Always Knock

...This chapter looks at this barrier and its origins—why it is that many women assume that they must wait to be given the things they want or need and don't realize more of the time that opportunity doesn't always knock.

Turnip or Oyster?
If people's beliefs about the opportunities in life lie along a spectrum, at one end would be the view that "you can't get blood from a turnip." People holding this outlook believe that "what you see is what you get" and most situations cannot be changed. They may also assume, like Heather, that if a situation could be changed, this fact would be advertised to all. At the other end of the spectrum is the view that "the world is your oyster." People with this outlook believe that life is full of opportunities, most situations are flexible, rules are made to be broken, and much can be gained by asking for what you want.

Linda and several colleagues decided to systematically investigate whether men and women differ in their positions along this "turnip to oyster" spectrum. To do so, they developed a scale that measures the degree to which a person recognizes opportunities to negotiate and sees negotiation as critical for realizing those opportunities. Scales are research tools that have been used for many years to measure behavioral and perceptual differences across people. Perhaps the most famous is the Myers-Briggs scale, which maps an individual's personality profile according to where he or she scores on four related scales (extroverted —introverted, sensing—intuitive, thinking—feeling, judging— perceiving).

Other scales capture individual differences in beliefs, perceptions, and behavioral tendencies. Not all of these differences are innate or ilogical, of course. Psychologists believe that behavior is heavily influenced by the situations in which people find themselves—a person may drink more at a party where other people are drinking than he or she would drink if alone, for example. Nonetheless, some stable traits and attitudes do lead to differences in the ways people behave. Scales are used to try to identify those traits and attitudes. People who are rated high on a "shyness" scale, for example, have been shown to talk less and engage in less frequent eye contact than people who rate low on that scale.

Unlike some of Linda's earlier studies, which measured the frequency with which respondents took the lead in starting negotiations, is "recognition of opportunity" or "turnip-to-oyster" scale measured peoples' propensity to see possibilities for change in their circumstances. This is how it worked: As part of the web survey described in the introduction, Linda and her colleagues presented respondents with a series of statements such as:

• I thinka person has to ask for what he or she wants rather than wait for someone to provide it.

• There are many things available to people, if only people ask for them.

• Many interactions I have during the day can be opportunities to improve my situation.

The survey asked respondents to rate along a seven-point scale the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Low scorers would be people who see little benefit to asking for what they want because they perceive their environment as unchangeable (these would be the "turnip" people). High scorers would be people who see most situations as adaptable to their needs and regularly look for ways to improve their circumstances (the "oyster" folks).

Confirming our expectations, women were 45 percent more likely than men to score low on this scale, indicating that women are much less likely than men to see the benefits and importance of asking for what they want. Even more telling, we found that a difference of as little as 10 percent on this scale—that is, a score that was only 10 percent higher—translated into about 30 percent more attempts to negotiate (as demonstrated by another part of the survey). The strong correlation between high scores and a much greater tendency to try to negotiate confirmed our hunch that "oyster" people ask for what they want much more often than "turnip" folks—and that many more men than women are "oysters." Since men are more likely than women to believe opportunities can be "had for the asking," or at least that change may be possible, is it any wonder that they're more likely to speak up and let people know what they want?

During our interviews, we found women recounting story after story of not realizing what could be changed by asking—a problem that can arise early and persist well into old age. Amanda, 23, a management consultant, seems to be a very self-possessed and confident young woman. Interested in math and science, she studied engineering in college and was offered an excellent consulting job as soon as she graduated. By her own description, she has always been less like her mother and more like her father, who taught her to be focused and direct, and to go after what she wants. She said of herself "I don't like nonaction." Nonetheless, as a child she assumed that her parents wouldn't let her do all sorts of things—such as going away to camp, or taking trips with friends—that they permitted her younger brother to do. She isn't sure why she made these assumptions, and when as an adult she asked her parents about the different things that they allowed her brother to do, they were surprised. "You never asked us," they said, adding that it would have been fine with them for her to do the things she mentioned.

Kay, 41, a jeweler in Colorado, had worked for many months on a project creating minutely accurate reproductions of ornate antique jeweled boxes. For a year and a half, she and the other jewelers on the project had maintained a schedule that she describes as "insane, inhumane," working nights and weekends without any kind of a break. The pressure was straining Kay's relationship with her partner and her health was suffering. Finally, exhausted, she approached her boss and said she couldn't work nights and weekends anymore. She expected "all kinds of groaning and grumbling," but her boss agreed without a fuss. "I just came in one day and said that, and that was the way it was from then on," she told us.

Renata, 53, a vice president of a cosmetics company, collects art. Once, when she first began collecting, she fell in love with a piece by a particular artist. She loved it so much that she took it home and hung it in her house to see how it looked. She loved it even more, but she couldn't afford it and with great regret she returned it to the dealer. Shortly afterward, the artist who painted the picture died. Realizing that the work's value would skyrocket, Renata rushed back to the dealer, only to find that the piece had already been sold. "If you loved it that much, you should have asked me to work out a payment plan," the dealer said. "I would have figured out a way for you to have it." This had never occurred to Renata. She assumed that the price was the price, she either had the money or she didn't, and there was no flexibility in the situation.

In stark contrast, the men we interviewed recounted numerous tales of assuming that opportunity abounds—and reaping big rewards. Here are a few of their stories....

Excerpted from "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide," by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Used by permission of Princeton University Press. Copyright (c) 2003 Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.