Well Being

Why Women Won’t Ask for What They Really Want

By  | 

Regrets: We've all had our share. When it comes to my career, one of the biggest things I've kicked myself for is not asking for more money when I clearly knew I should have — and could have. Yet, I was afraid I wouldn't get the job, afraid to start off on a bad foot and afraid my future boss would see me as too pushy or greedy. Rack up another one for Mars versus Venus.

Even though we're steadily closing the salary-gender gap, new research reveals that, compared with men, women still don’t ask for what they need. Instead, we often settle for what is offered. Worse yet, sometimes the thought of negotiating doesn't even cross our minds.

In their new book, “Women Don't Ask”, co-authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever uncovered these and other differences between men and women when asking for what we really want.

Here are some of the surprising things they found when it comes to the fine art of negotiating:

  • In a study of starting salaries for masters level students, salaries were $4,000 higher on average for males than females. Only 7% of the females compared with 57% of the males had asked for more money.
  • In a study of young adults asked to play four rounds of Boggle for money, men and women were offered $3. Despite complaints by both men and women, nine times as many men than women asked for more money.
  • In interviews conducted with over 100 male and females of varying ages either working or full time mothers, respondents were asked to identify their last negotiation. Women reported major events from several months past like buying a car, while the majority of men described a number of informal events within the prior week like driving the kids, teaming plans at work etc. Overall, women did not think about or utilize negotiation as part of the fabric of their life as much as men.

In our stereotypical “giving” roles, the authors found that not asking for what we really want boils down to three things: We're too busy taking care of others; we don't want to risk disrupting relationships; or quite simply, it doesn't occur to us. Then, of course, there's always the fact that men (and other women) tend to react more negatively to women who aggressively ask for what they want (“I need that presentation done by tomorrow” comes across as bitchy if a woman says it, but authoritative if a man does).

In my own informal observations with male and female friends, I have generally found this to be true. Men can state what they want at the very beginning of a situation. They tend to feel more comfortable negotiating a salary or a raise, while women aren't and can wind up disgruntled or approaching the situation passive-aggressively (like that rumor you started behind your boss' back or that file that “accidentally” got deleted). Not to add to the Mars versus Venus stereotype, but I think it boils down to the way women are raised where it's not always “polite” to ask for something or potentially make someone uncomfortable or upset.

The solution seems to be in not mimicking a guy's style of negotiating (because apparently they are better at it than we are), but in finding a way to do so that is authentic to us.

Photo: Creative Commons

comments