Women Negotiating in a Gender Biased Situation

What You'll Learn
  • The key for women to gain credibility when working with cultures that have a gender bias is how her own male teammates behave towards her
  • Don't expect to change your counterpart's culture; your goal is to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement

Women negotiators are often concerned about how to gain credibility and respect when working with cultures that have strong gender bias. Interestingly, the key is not so much how the woman behaves, but how her male teammates behave towards her. Respect is gained not by behaving more assertively, but by male teammates showing the respect and deference commensurate to her rank and role.


The first step is to:

  • Discuss the issue with your male team members in advance of your initial meeting.

The process of establishing credibility does not happen overnight. It may take several encounters before the other team begins to get the message.

  • Women should be patient and consistent, and always gracious and polite. Overly assertive behavior or trying to prove a point will only set you back.

Women negotiators should participate in social events, as long as their male teammates are attending. (The exception to this rule would occur in some parts of the Middle East. If you are invited to a social event in the Middle East and escorted to the "women's side" of the event, etiquette dictates that you should remain there.) In general, do not allow yourself to end up alone with one or more of the other side's male team members. (This is more for appearance's sake rather than any risk.) Very moderate alcohol consumption is acceptable if everyone else is drinking; it is best to avoid "drinking like the guys," and to opt for less potent drinks (i.e. wine over Scotch, beer over sake, champagne over vodka). Dress should be businesslike in every setting; for social events, a dinner suit in a low-key color is appropriate.