blog by Swagger Founder Cindy Brown
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg presents some data that supports what we already know: although women have made tremendous advances in the work world, there are some remaining inequalities. Sandberg argues that the way women act in the work place may be part of what holds them back from advancing in the corporate world – they lean away from challenges, when they should lean in. She also points out that it is not a simple matter of women changing their behavior to act more like men. In fact, women are at a disadvantage when asking for a raise due to cultural expectations that we all hold that women should be “nicer” than men, but not too nice.
“Men don’t have to legitimize their negotiations; they are expected to look out for themselves. Women, however, have to justify their requests. One way way of doing this is to suggest that someone more senior encouraged the negotiation…or to cite industry standards….Telling a current employer about an offer from another company is a common tactic but works for men more easily than for women. Men are allowed to be focused on their own achievements, while loyalty is expected from women. Also, just being nice is not a winning strategy. Nice sends a message that the woman is willing to sacrifice pay to be liked by others. This is why a woman needs to combine niceness with insistence, a style that Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, calls “relentlessly pleasant.” This method requires smiling frequently, expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching the negotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance. Most negotiations involve drawn-out, successive moves, so women need to stay focused…and smile.”
Many women don’t like to negotiate and who could blame them? Not only do you need to advocate for yourself, but you also have to smile, show you are a team player, say thank you and not be too adversarial. But as women, we need to find ways in our personal and professional lives to negotiate for what we want and need whether it be fair treatment in everyday situations or for a promotion at work.
Last year, I put together a panel called “Negotiate like a Woman” for a meeting of the Boulder Business and Professional Women to address the internal and external challenges that women face in negotiating for what they want. The panelists, including me, talked about their challenges and successes in their careers as lawyers, non-profit leaders, and professional negotiators.
I drew on my own experiences finding workable negotiation strategies in my personal and professional life. In my professional life, I developed affordable housing in Boulder, Colorado for the local housing authority, often working with teams of all men to design, finance, and construct housing for families of low income. I also talked about a class I taught called Real World Planning at the University of Colorado in Boulder, College of Architecture and Planning.
The course was designed to introduce seniors studying planning and architecture, who were in their last semester to the skills that they needed in the real work world. One topic we covered was negotiation. At the beginning of that class, I asked the students who enjoyed negotiating and who hated it. Only a few ever responded that they enjoyed it, and those students were invariably men. The rare female student who liked to negotiate always caught my eye because that woman would almost always later emerge as a class leader.
For me, I began to practice negotiating small things in my life. I became very good at negotiating for a discount, a decent hotel room, a good table at a restaurant, a new car purchase and for the department store sales person to throw in the extra electrical cord that usually wasn’t included with purchase.
When we talked in class about negotiating, I asked for examples of techniques that the students had seen used for negotiation and had tried themselves. There were a variety of ideas offered, including getting angry, yelling, and being unreasonable. The students admitted that sometimes these techniques worked for them, but more often they didn’t. Over time, I’ve found that the best technique is one of absolute reasonableness and patience. I ask many questions. At my house, we call it the “what about this, what about that” technique. It looks like this: Read More…