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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

Why Women Don't Ask and What They Don't Ask For

Women don't ask, salary negotiations

On my recent trip to Phoenix I caught up with a former Wharton MBA classmate. He had forwarded my post about women’s mental barriers to negotiating to his co-worker and helped her think through her current situation (settling for less, afraid to “betray” her company by considering other offers, afraid to be perceived as ungrateful, etc). To avoid being too stereotypical in my assumptions, I asked him if he had also faced some of these barriers. He said that he never did and that it was a bit of a shock for him to see that women thought this way about salary negotiations. When It Comes to Salary Negotiations, Are Men from Mars and Women from Venus? Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever did extensive research on this topic. In their book Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, they share how in the mid 1990's Linda was serving as the director of the Ph.D program at the school of public policy and management in Carnegie Mellon. She started getting questions from female students as to why male students got to teach courses of their own, to march during graduation ceremonies despite not yet submitting their dissertations and to receive funding to go to special conferences, while female students didn't get any of these opportunities. It then hit her that she was perpetuating unfair treatment simply by not noticing how much more often men asked for things that would help them get ahead. Linda had been teaching negotiations for 10 years and therefore got curious if similar gender differences existed in how men and women used negotiations to advance their goals. Her research led to the discovery that "men initiated negotiations to advance their own interests about FOUR times as frequently as women." Not negotiating has financial consequences. They share the following example: lets assume that a woman and a man both finish their MBAs when they are 30 and get a $100,000 salary offer, yet the man negotiates and gets the offer increased to $115,000. Moreover, assuming salary increase of 3% per year, and investing the extra money at 3% a year, by the time they are 65, the man would have saved $1.5M more than the woman. This, of course, doesn't include asking for any additional raises throughout their lifetime. The consequences aren't only financial. Linda's research group also found that women don't ask:

  • to be promoted before promotion has been offered,

  • for project assignments that match their skills and interest

  • to take on more responsibility as soon as they feel ready

  • to work with people from whom they can learn

  • for additional training that could move them ahead faster

  • to be recognized for their hard work, ideas, and contributions

As a result, Linda concluded that "women earn less money, progress more slowly in their careers, and don't rise as high as similarly talented men," and teamed with Sara to write a book aimed at helping women to negotiate for their objectives.

Where Do We Go From Here? All of us, when relevant, can encourage the women in our lives to ask for more and help them brainstorm negotiation strategies. With the increased awareness of this topic, more women can now seek resources and educate themselves on negotiations. Many of them are indeed doing this already and I love seeing the outcomes!

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