Two recent studies discussed in Katie Shonk’s Harvard PONS blog Challenges Facing Women Negotiators (June 1, 2021) confirm what I have long suspected: it is tough being a woman negotiator. Or more bluntly, any given negotiation scenario is biased against women when men are involved. (“Blog”)

The first study by Professor Hannah Bowles of Harvard Business School, Professor Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, and Professor Lei Lai of Tulane University “…found that both male and female study participants were less interested in working with women who attempted to negotiate a better salary than they were with men who tried to negotiate a higher salary.” (Id.) As Professor Babcock has previously noted that women do not tend to ask for a higher salary (Babcock, Linda, and Laschever, Sara, Women Don’t Ask, (Random House, New York 2007) at ix), she hypothesizes in this study that women’s failure to negotiate may be due, at least in part, that it could trigger a social backlash in the office. (Blog at 1.)

A second study was more troubling: it found that “people are also more likely to lie to female negotiators than to male negotiators. (Id.) As explained by the researchers’ Laura J. Kray and Alex B. Van Zant of the University of California at Berkeley and Jessica A. Kennedy of the University of Pennsylvania:

Women were lied to more often because participants viewed them as less competent than men and thus less likely to question their lies. Both men and women also were more likely to give male negotiators preferential treatment by disclosing hidden interests. (Id.)

So… how do women level the playing field? Three tips are offered.

The first is to be non-threatening. Be assertive with a smile, a friendly gesture, and other non-threatening stereotypical feminine behavior. (Id.)

The second is to be a team player; rather than attempting to obtain what is good for a woman individually, she should couch the request in terms of what is good for the organization. (Id.)

And third; be prepared by doing your homework and knowing your subject matter. In this way, a woman negotiator will be able to test the claims of her adversary and otherwise not be duped into taking or agreeing to less. (Id.)

Professor Babcock and Ms. Laschever published the hard copy of their book- Women Don’t Ask- in September 2003 followed by their sequel Ask for it (Random House, New York, 2008). It is a sad commentary that almost 20 years later, women still face backlash for asking for more and at times are even being lied to.

… Just something to think about.



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