Women and Negotiation: Why Men Should Come to the Table

Aug 25, 2016 | Leadership Insights (Articles) | 0 comments

Author: Andrew Cohn

Women generally do better than men in win-win types of negotiation, and worse in win-lose negotiations.

As a lawyer, mediator and consultant who has advised organizations on questions of gender balance, diversity and women’s leadership, it is not surprising that Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever caught my attention. The book summarizes research around women’s general reluctance to negotiate, as well as the challenges faced when they do.

Ms. Babcock is a professor of economics and the principal researcher, and Ms. Laschever is a writer based in the United States. While not an expert in this area of research, I have read much of the research about how men and women tend to operate differently at times, and my experience is usually consistent with that research.The primary finding of Women Don’t Ask is that women often get less because they ask for less. Not only do women aim lower, according to the research, but in many cases they don’t ask at all. Why is that? Because women are less sure of what is negotiable and what would constitute a good deal. The research further indicates that, for women, the social costs of negotiating seem much higher in many cases than the benefits.

Women might have learned that to ask is to be argumentative, unpleasant or uncooperative, and so they might avoid negotiating. It isn’t that women don’t negotiate. Ms. Laschever points out that women often negotiate on behalf of someone else.

In some contexts women are generally more effective negotiators than men, the authors note. They generally negotiate well with other women and with men who use a cooperative negotiation style, and in negotiations in which creative problem-solving or moving beyond “fixed pie” solutions are possible. Women have the advantage in these types of negotiations because they require communication, information sharing, and trust-building approaches – areas where women are generally more skilled than men. These win-win negotiations often create better relationships between parties, make execution easier, and contribute to better negotiations in the future.

All of us – but particularly men – are more willing to engage in a constructive conversation if we are not at the same time shouldering the blame.

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