“Why Women Don’t Ask”- a Must Read!


The idea behind “Negotiatress” is to put in words the reality of women in negotiation and define the feminine context of negotiation. As in many other fields, the world of negotiation has been and still is a male-dominated one. This means books and research on the subject are mostly written by men and from a male point of view. Even negotiation classes taught by women will be painted in “male hues” as they base their curriculum on male writers and experts.


Why Women Don’t Ask


One book I’ve found that comes as close as possible to a comprehensive analysis of the female experience of negotiation is Why Women Don’t Ask”, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. As close as possible, because this book focuses on the very real problem we face as women, in a male-dominated world.


It discusses what research shows: that women are less prone to ask for things for themselves. They avoid actively promoting themselves or seeking and identifying opportunities to further their own benefit compared to men.


The authors also take a look at what happens when women do “ask” or negotiate: they get less for their efforts than their male counterparts. They are also often “punished” or frowned upon for stepping out of what is seen as their traditional role- docile, unassuming, and non-threatening.



Forgetting Women’s Positive Roles in Negotiation


There is still a huge gap in literature on the strengths and capabilities women do bring to negotiation, which to me is just as important a role to understand. It reminds me of a seminary presentation I attended during my studies in conflict research. A young woman came in to discuss her meticulously researched thesis on “the Role of Women in Conflict” with us.


After numerous slides on women as rape victims and sex slaves, I raised my hand and asked if perhaps women also had more active and less victimised roles in conflicts. After pausing for a moment, the speaker said she could actually think of an example where an all-female policing force helped restore peace in a post-conflict country in Africa. Villages who refused to allow male policemen to enter for fear of violence, allowed the women to enter. There are, of course, many other good examples.


It is challenging even for women like this speaker to conceive of women as heroes and process-leaders, so deep is the idea of women as passive supporting-characters ingrained in us. A book about us as the leading agents of negotiation is yet to be written. Still, “Why Women Don’t Ask” is a precious piece of work, and every woman I have given the book to has described a coin-dropping, lightbulb-lighting experience in reading it.


The Price We’re Paying is High


This book is groundbreaking in portraying the realities women face, especially in showing that the problem is not only that “women don’t ask” for what they want enough, but that they are faced with a crushing bias against them when they do, and that the costs we pay for this bias are exponential. The book quotes that the economic damage of women failing to negotiate their salaries, from first job to pension, averages one million dollars in the US. Take that information and apply it to our behaviour in social contexts and in relationships- the thought of the social and psychological welfare we are losing is crushing!


What Can We Do About This?


Having developed an awareness of this reality brings me to what Negotiatress is all about. It’s about giving you the tools and sense of capability to go out there and get the economic, social and psychological welfare you deserve. And it is looking for that much needed leading role women have to play in negotiation. By doing that we’re not just helping ourselves, we’re creating more positive and inclusive negotiation scenarios. We are creating a context in which negotiation is not led only by ego and competition, and is not only about maximising what we can get. It is also about social responsibility, sustainability, and human relations.


If you do one thing, read one book on the subject, read “Why Women Don’t Ask!” It will set a process rolling in your mind that is essential for you to become a better negotiator. You can order the book online (free shipping worldwide) on The Book Depository.



See you next post!



Yasmine Guerin

Founder of Negotiatress

Originally posted on February 23, 2020 by Negotiatress


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