Negotiation Blog

Are women natural negotiators?

By Marianne Eby

Are women natural negotiators? Absolutely, but most of us don’t believe it. Watershed team members Cait Clarke and Neil Shister have written an exciting, easy to use negotiating guide directed to women called DARE TO ASK! THE WOMAN’S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATING.

The book, the product of Cait’s extensive training and coaching, addresses the question of why so many women are reluctant to negotiate and then provides a powerful solution. Neil is the author of the bestseller Ten Minute Guide to Negotiating and has brought that same accessible style (complete with workbook exercises) to DARE TO ASK!

25 years ago Cait and I met in law school, where we were a studious pair who thought our career success would depend primarily on our skill development. We were right that skills matter, but we didn’t realize then that one of the most important skills we would need wasn’t being taught -- the skills of a master negotiator.

Since our early '80s law school days, academic experts repositioned negotiation as a win-win ‘collaborative conversation’ rather than ‘winner take all competitive conflict.’ In most situations, this collaborative strategy is the key to success, and thus is the focus of our work at Watershed.

Every year I teach collaborative negotiation to hundreds of business professionals and lawyers, many of them women. While I always encounter women who are strong negotiators, I’ve also found plenty of others reticent to engage in the give and take of a vibrant bargaining session. Cait and Neil’s new book helps us understand why that is, and helps women get in touch with their natural negotiator.

DARE TO ASK! offers women more than a skill set. The book helps us look at the upbringing, biology and other influences that have shaped us, and empowers us as women to rely on our innate talents for patience, listening, questioning, teamwork, empathy and social bonding – all critical bargaining skills. Where we women tend to fall short is that we are so natural at collaborative conversation, we don’t believe in it when the stakes are high and the outcome paramount – especially when we negotiate for ourselves!

Cait wants women to realize they start out with an edge in negotiations, not a deficit.

DARE TO ASK! combines theory with action steps and bargaining tips. It draws on academic and business school research, as well as popular authors who have written about how anti-feminine gender bias can put women at a disadvantage in traditional negotiating.

For example, the book discusses a landmark study of recent MBAs from elite business schools that found women’s starting salaries to be some 10% less than their male counterparts graduating from the same institutions. Why? Researchers traced the cause back to a one big factor: more women accepted the first offer made, and more men pushed back and asked for more.

To illustrate how pernicious this failure to negotiate becomes, this initial differential compounds over the years to represent almost half-a-million dollars of reduced earnings.

For these women and all those I teach who still hold back their inherent negotiation talents, DARE TO ASK! will ensure you move past that reluctance and enter negotiations with the skill and confidence to succeed. Explore Watershed’s program on Advancing Women Negotiators.

Negotiating Tip

Be sincerely curious and ask three questions after their offer. Listen as an ally! This will tell you how legitimate they think their offer is.

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