Do women have trouble with negotiation?

Selena Rezvani, who is the author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead But Won’t Learn in Business School, was leading a workshop for women about negotiation skills. She took an informal survey of the room and asked how many women had negotiated/countered their last salary offer. Only about 10% had. Granted, this is not a scientific poll, but Rezvani says that:

“In fact women initiate negotiations four times less often than their male counterparts. Women also report “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiation–at a rate 2.5 times more than men, according to the research of Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.”

The research, and Rezvani’s anecdotal evidence, seems to indicate that women do have trouble with negotiation. But is this true? And if so, why is it so? Perhaps it is because women tend to be consensus-builders and perhaps don’t adapt to the perception of negotiation as adversarial.

Rezvani shared her ideas in the post “Why do women hate negotiating” as part of the On Leadership series on The Washington Post.

Women that make it to the top also challenge long-standing beliefs in order to get themselves to the negotiating table. They push back on the “good girl”-isms with which they grew up. They didn’t buy into: “Be seen and not heard,” “Always be nice” or “Don’t be too outspoken.” On the contrary, to survive in a top role, they ask for what they want. They’re firm. They don’t accept what’s unacceptable.

It’s a different negotiation mindset that can help us get over the hump. As someone that once pictured negotiation negatively (think bloody bullfight), I have come to pare it down to one excruciatingly simple act: a conversation that ends in agreement.

Dr. Chester L. Karrass would agree with this last idea—that negotiation should be viewed differently, and not as an adversarial I win-you lose situation:

“One intriguing question I have been asked is whether men are better negotiators than women. It’s a hard one to answer. All other things being equal the best negotiator will be the person who prepares well, has a good understanding of the issues at stake, is knowledgeable about the process of negotiation, including the strategies and tactic available to him or her, and is able to move the negotiation toward a both-win agreement.” (The Negotiating Game, p. 217)

You thoughts? Do women have trouble with negotiation?

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