Negotiating: Is it Harder for Women?

Last Updated Jan 25, 2010 8:10 PM EST

Ample evidence suggests that men tend to be better negotiators than women: women ask for raises and promotions 85 percent less often than men do; when they do ask, they request 30 percent less money than their male counterparts, according to 2008 research from Carnegie Mellon University.

The attitude that many women have toward the art of negotiation shows why: the same research found that the top metaphor men chose for negotiating was "winning a ball game," while women were apt to liken it to "going to the dentist."

So it's clear that many women in business need to find a way to make negotiating more enjoyable. During a recent lecture at Stanford's Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Deborah Kolb, a Simmons School of Management professor, said that women should frame their request, be it a raise, flex time or a promotion, in a way that shows its benefit to the organization.
"Women who link their needs to the good of the organization tend to receive better performance reviews, are more likely to be offered leadership opportunities and are less likely to leave the organization," said Kolb.

While this approach may be more comfortable for women who worry about being too demanding, feminine modesty isn't the only culprit keeping women from getting what they deserve. According to Kolb, showing benefits for the organization is also a crucial strategy for helping women receive what they want when companies have lower expectations of their female employees embedded into their framework.

Kolb also suggests that women prepare for negotiations by thinking about resistance before it comes up. For example, if a woman expects that her supervisor will say she isn't ready for a promotion, then she should go into the meeting prepared to counter that idea.

Such strategies might not only help women get what they want, but also help them get over using dentist metaphors when it comes to negotiating, which would be a big step forward indeed.

Image courtesy of Flickr user eman_winston, CC 2.0.

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.