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We give you actionable advice so you can elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation—helping you overcome the hurdles you face in business and life to become even more successful.
Hey guys! Welcome back to yet another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Joining us today is Sara Laschever, a leading authority on the challenges women face in the workplace. With Linda Babcock, she has co-authored two groundbreaking books: Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide and Ask for It: How Women Can Use The Power Of Negotiation To Get What They Really Want.
Additionally, Sara lectures and teaches workshops about women in negotiation, barriers to women’s leadership, gender issues in the American workforce, and the multiple factors influencing women’s long-term career success for corporate audiences, college universities, law firms, and government agencies.
She also served as a senior fellow at the Center for Work-Life Policy, now known as the Center for Talent Innovation and as an academic coordinator for the inaugural WIN Summit, a national conference that focuses on helping women learn to negotiate. A bonafide alumnus of Princeton and Boston University, Sara currently resides in Concord, Massachusetts.
Aram kicks off the episode by asking Sara about the common differences between a man and a woman’s approach to negotiating. In her response, Sara highlights that the first big difference is that men negotiate more often when compared to women.
She adds that men negotiate for themselves at work for things that will help them advance in their careers four times as frequently as women do. While the man might not be getting everything he’s asking for, the fact that he is not afraid to ask for so many things makes him more likely to move ahead career-wise than a woman.
Furthermore, men tend to aim higher when they negotiate because they feel more entitled to be rewarded for their actions. A study suggests that men ask for 30% more than women do. Even if they receive only 10% of that initial amount, this phenomenon compounds over their entire careers. All in all, men aim higher and feel more entitled to negotiate.
Women, on the other hand, don’t negotiate as frequently as men. An interesting study suggests that men apply for a job position or negotiate for it even if they have 60% of the qualifications listed on the job posting. Women, however, will not raise their hands unless they have 95% of the qualifications listed on the job posting.
Long story short, men feel like they can negotiate based on what they believe to be their potential, whereas women negotiate based on what they think they have already proven conclusively that they’re able to do.
According to research, two women negotiating are likely to reach better agreements for both sides because they share more information, and ask each other questions in an effort to find a win-win solution. In general, everybody comes out in a better position than they were going in.
Apart from that, Sara suggests that when women negotiate on behalf of other people, they tend to aim higher, stay in the negotiation for a few more rounds, and believe that the individuals they are representing deserve more.
When it comes to negotiations, women have a few natural strengths. Perhaps, the most notable one is their ability to take a more collaborative problem-solving approach, which has produced better outcomes for both sides.
In negotiations, women share more information, which enables them to brainstorm ideas and prepares them for the unexpected. It has also been found that taking a collaborative problem-solving approach is also good for the relationship between both parties, which is no less than a bonus.
So, in negotiations, women tend to take a problem-solving approach, ask more questions, and listen more carefully, which makes the process a lot easier.
Sara suggests that women are likely to have their self-esteem fluctuate a bit more than men in response to negative feedback and criticism. Women don’t negotiate as often as men because they are afraid of nos and getting turned down, which is undoubtedly a self-defeating approach.
However, there are several ways to manage the overwhelming anxiety of rejection. First, make sure that you have done your research. The more data you have, the better you will understand what’s at stake, how much other people are getting paid, what other opportunities people are getting offered, what the market is rewarding outside of your organization, etc.
Proper research can also show what you’ve accomplished and what value you’ve brought to the organization. Thus, it can help you make a strong argument that will help you get a better outcome, and it will help you feel more confident because you’ve got a strong presentation.
Additionally, Sara recommends practicing calm responses by role-playing.
If you feel anxious about negotiating, it’s a great tactic to get together with someone you trust and brief them thoroughly about what you’re worried about and then play it through several times. Push them to embarrass you and then practice calm responses that steer away from conflict to a more constructive problem-solving mode.
This also ensures that you have a prepared response. The emotional trigger that you’re worried about might make you lose your composure; if you have prepared well, it will already have been triggered in the role-play and you’ll know your response.
Sara, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. This is our 50th episode of the podcast, and we’d like to thank each of you for tuning in. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts on this very informational episode.
Thank you for listening.
Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NegotiateX podcast. I am your co-host and co-founder Nola Martin. And with me is my great friend and engaging co-host Aram Donigian. Aram, how are you doing today, sir?
Aram Donigian : I'm great, Nolan. Thank you.
NM : We're coming off of an engaging conversation with the Florida mayors as we went down to the conference. How are you feeling about everything that we did down there?
AD : It was a great experience. What a great group of folks and excited to join in today on today’s conversation. So lemme go ahead and I'm gonna introduce our guest, Sara Laschever, is a leading authority on the challenges women face in the workplace and co-author with Linda Babcock of the groundbreaking books Women Don't Ask:Negotiation and the Gender Divide and Ask for It: How Women Can Use The Power Of Negotiation To Get What They Really Want.
She lectures and teaches workshops about women in negotiation, barriers to women's leadership, gender issues in the American workforce, and the multiple factors influencing women's long term career success for corporate audiences, college universities, law firms, government agencies, and women's leadership conferences both in the United States and around the world.
Sara worked as a research associate and principal interviewer for Project Access, a landmark Harvard University study that explored impediments to women's careers in science and is a founding faculty member of the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women. She also served as senior fellow at the Center for Work Life Policy, now known as the Center for Talent Innovation. And as an academic coordinator for the inaugural WIN Summit, a national conference focuses on helping women learn to negotiate. Sara earned her bachelor's degree from Princeton and a master's degree from Boston University. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Sara, thank you for joining us today. Welcome to the program.
Sara Laschever : Thank you. Nice to be here.
NM : Well Sara, we'd like to always kick off the conversation here where we kind of ask you about your journey to becoming a negotiator. Are there any key developments that you hit along the way to get you to this point today?
SL : Sure. I guess to start with my father, although he had two boys and two girls, said to all of us never take No for an answer the first three times. And that actually turns out to be pretty good guidance. Occasionally a woman will raise her hand when I give a talk and say, Well, what if they say, what about? No, don't you understand? Then you can laugh and say, Always worth checking, let's keep talking about it, ask some questions about why it's a no and keep going.
Another piece of it is that my mother went to work when I was a kid. She worked throughout my childhood and obviously well into my adulthood and she encountered a lot of issues in the workplace as a professional woman that really alerted me to what was going on and what women faced. And I studied it in school, I experienced it myself and, and here I am. And just beyond that, I met Linda Babcock, who was this wonderful scholar, behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon who had done a lot of research on women's challenges when they negotiate and she and I hit it off. She had some great research that I think would speak to and did in fact speak to a general audience, not just other professors. And so we wrote our books together.
AD : I'd love to dig into some of that work that you've done with Linda. What would you say are the common differences between how women and men approach negotiating?
SL : Sure. Well the first big difference is men just do it more. One study Linda did show that men negotiate for themselves at work so for things that will help them get ahead professionally four times as frequently as women do. So, that means if every quarter, every three months or so you as a woman gets up your nerve and goes in, asks for something that will help you get ahead, a typical man is doing that 16 times a year. He may not be getting everything he's asking for, but simply because he is asking for so many more big and little things, he is gonna move ahead of you faster if you are a woman.
The other thing is that men aim higher when they do negotiate. They feel more entitled to get rewarded for what they're doing. And one study showed that they ask for 30% more than women do typically. And it is a corollary, if you ask for 30% more, you have a pretty good chance of getting 10% more and that can be a real difference when it's basically compounded over the course of your career.
So, men ask more, they aim higher and they feel more entitled to negotiate and get what they want. So there's a lot of interesting research, some of which you may have heard, that men will apply for a new position, kinda a stretch opportunity, change of jobs, apply for a new position, stretch opportunity, change of jobs when they have maybe 60% of the qualifications listed on the job posting.
Women will not raise their hands, they will not ask for more unless they have 95% of the qualifications listed on the job posting. So men just feel like they can negotiate based on what they believe to be their potential, whereas women negotiate based on what they think they have already proven conclusively that they're able to do.
AD : Does that, does any of that research you just shared, does it change as you look at women who are also members of other identity groups?
SL : It's harder. Whatever marginalized, minority, disregarded, unappreciated group you belong to, you belong to. It compounds the problem. If you're a woman and you're also a first generation immigrant, if you're a woman and you're a person of color, if a woman and you are disabled or you, you know, you have a disability, those will all make this more difficult.
AD : Yeah. You mentioned, I was gonna ask, you mentioned your mom going back to work when you were a child and, and the ability to learn from that and the impact that had on you. And I was wondering, for those who are first generation corporate, whether it's America or anywhere around the world, I would assume that also plays a factor, right? That there isn't, you don't have that role model, that person to co that, that mentor built into the family and and you have to understand how to kind of navigate these challenges that you're identifying.
SL : Absolutely. And I think in this case women can learn a lot and actually benefit a lot from fathers who are supportive. And I like to say there's nothing that turns man into a feminist faster than having a brilliant, talented daughter, you know, enter the workforce and not get appreciated and rewarded. And those fathers often provide a lot of support and guidance for their kids.
AD : I appreciate that. I have, so I have six kids, Sara.
SL : Wow, congratulations!
AD : Four of them are brilliant young women or on their way to be. I have two girls and then two boys in the middle and two girls at the end. And so I really, I appreciate that, that challenge. And you know, you talked, you talked about your, your dad saying don't take no for an answer the first three times, I love that. I'm curious where you were in the birth order, do you see any birth order effects on the w
SL : I don't know if it does. I'm not aware of that research. I'm number two, it was kind of boy, girl, boy, girl. And so as the oldest girl closely identified with my mom, you know, there may have been some benefits, but my younger sister, who was the youngest of four, is also very successful in sort of asking for what she wants.
AD : I had always heard that number twos make the best negotiators. I'm a number three, so I have to defer to my older sister who's the number two. I'm also one of four kids, you know, as you share your research, I'm curious, does it make any difference whether a woman is negotiating with a man or another woman?
SL : Very interesting. I get asked this question absolutely every time I speak or teach a workshop or have a casual conversation with somebody about negotiating. And there's a general perception that a lot of women have that women who are more senior women's supervisors are not as supportive of them as they would like and that it's actually harder to negotiate with them. Or they had some dragon lady boss or mean girl boss. And the research doesn't really bear that out. Research suggests that when two women are negotiating together, they actually reach better agreements for both sides because they share more information, they ask each other questions, they kind of get down to the business of finding, no whatever, a win-win solution where everybody comes out in a better, a better position than they were going in.
Now, because I hear this so often, I kind of dug into it and what the research does suggest is that when women bosses, supervisors are not as supportive as women expect, we mark because it violates our expectations for women that they will be caretaking and whatever, socially nurturing. But when men act like sharks, they are, you know, whatever self-interested eyes on the prize goal focused that aligns with our gender expectations. And we don't market in the same way. And in fact, I've talked to many men, you know, hedge fund managers, people in finance and lots like, yeah, I'll go after what I want and you know, consequences to other people be damned, but it doesn't bother us or or stay with us in the same way when a when a woman doesn't.
AD : And you know, I was gonna ask and we combine two questions. Does industry matter whether it's a very mature industry where you have lots of standards to go to and and look at versus something, maybe something that's new, more entrepreneurial, a small startup, and also does it matter whether a woman is negotiating for herself on behalf of the corporation?
SL : Okay, let's start with industry. Basically what we know is that it's especially hard for women in fields that are largely dominated by men. So if there are very few women in senior roles, very few role models, then it becomes more difficult for women. That said, in fields that are dominated by women, you will find that often the people in the most senior roles turn out to be men are the people who get rewarded or say in nursing.
Male nurses typically on average are paid more than female nurses and they advance to be, you know, nurse managers faster. So there are problems everywhere in terms of the type of industry startup versus well established. I'm not sure that that matters so much, although again, I don't know that there's research that parses that really finely. But I do think it matters if the founders or most of the people working there are say millennials or Gen Z rather than boomers because a lot of men in those younger cohorts have grown up with mothers who work.
They have wives who work, they have sisters and friends who work and they also often want many of the things that women have always wanted. They want a better work-life balance. They wanna have time to attend a kid's soccer game or pay attention, you know, practice their hobbies, devote time to their causes, that sort of thing. And so when women want, of course things change.
Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't, you know, really goal-driven and heatless men who are founding startups and behaving badly. We can all name some from the news, but on the whole, I have a lot of optimism about millennials and GenZers moving into leadership roles cuz I think that will change our organizational culture.
AD : And how about the, whether a woman is negotiating for herself in a salary negotiation perhaps versus if they're negotiating on behalf of someone else or even when they're representing the organization. Does, does this, does research show that women negotiators show up differently in those different instances?
SL : Yes, absolutely. When women negotiate for other people, they tend to aim higher, stay in the negotiation for a few more rounds and just basically believe that whoever it is they're negotiating for deserves more. And there's great research showing that when women do exercises in the lab and they're asked to indicate how much they think the work is worth, they cite numbers way lower than say men will cite for the same work. And it's not that women think they're not as good at counting dots or evaluating freshman application materials or whatever the study was testing, but if they are saying how much would this work be worth if someone else was doing it, they'll estimate it more highly, they'll say it's worth more.
Now when they're negotiating on behalf of their teams, it gets a little bit complicated because if they are, I identify personally very much with the team, it may feel to them as though they're negotiating for themselves. If they're negotiating for people they supervise as opposed to whatever the rights, opportunities, resources for the team as a whole, then they will probably do a little better, aim a little higher.
Same is true when women have their own startups, when they've started their own businesses, often they identify very closely with the business and they feel a little less comfortable aiming as high as they would say if they were negotiating on behalf of an employer whose work they admire and wanna represent strongly.
AD : Very interesting. One more just kind of setting the foundation with the research and then I'm gonna pass it back to Nolan. In your research, do you see any natural strengths? We've talked about the challenges, but natural strengths that women bring that they should use more often in in their negotiations?
SL : Absolutely. What research shows us is that women tend to take a more collaborative problem solving approach to negotiation, whereas men are more likely to go in, I win, you lose, it's a zero sum game, I'm gonna get in there and you know, beat up the other guy or whoever it is. And decades of negotiation research have shown that that collaborative problem solving approach actually produces better outcomes, again for both sides. People share more information, they have more information, they can brainstorm unexpected or you know, terrific different solutions that nobody had identified before they went into the room. And that collaborative problem solving approach also is good for their relationship with the other person. If you go in and you beat somebody up or you play hardball and they walk away feeling like they're a little bruised or they haven't been treated fairly, they are not gonna be so ready to negotiate in an open-handed way going forward and they may bad mouth you, it may be bad for your reputation.
So, asking questions, listening, problem solving, women tend to do that more and it's actually the superior approach. So much so that people who teach negotiation often say that the point of a negotiation class is to teach everyone to negotiate more likely.
AD : I love it!
NM : Yeah and I think something that Aram and I like to really get at with our training is to be tough on the problem but soft on the person. That's kind of what you're explaining here, Sara. And what women our aides seem to do so well. So, I love that you pointed that out. Now, I have a question around anxiety and I'm wondering if women, whether they're negotiating for more or anything like that because of anxiety issues with potentially getting that negative reaction, is that something that the research is showing?
SL : Sure, it's a big thing. Women are apparently more likely to have their self-esteem fluctuate a little more in response to negative feedback, criticism, whatever, unfavorable evaluations, that kind of thing, men's tend to be a little bit more stable. And so women often don't negotiate cuz they're afraid of getting turned down, they're afraid of no and that can be a really self-defeating approach cuz of course you don't ask the answers already, it's already no.
Now, there are several good things you can do to push back against that anxiety, manage it, et cetera. First of all, do your research, the more research you have about comparables, what other people are getting paid, what other opportunities people are getting offered, what the market is paying rewarding outside of your organization. So you know, pure organizations or competitors and also research that shows what you've accomplished, what value you've brought to the organization or the potential benefits of them giving you what you want. How that will help the organization or the boss, the other person on the, you know, on the other side of the table achieve their performance targets. You can go in and make that argument that will not only, you know, help you presumably get a better outcome, but it will help you feel more confident because you've really got a strong presentation, you've really got a strong proposal, a strong argument to make.
The other thing that I recommend and I really wanna stress this is role playing. If you feel anxious about negotiating, then it's a great tactic to get together with someone you trust, a colleague, a friend, family member, whoever, and brief them thoroughly about what you're worried about and then play it through several times and get them to push your buttons and insult you, embarrass you, make you mad, you know, whatever, speak in and non and then practice calm responses that move things away from conflict, away from those flash points to this more constructive problem solving mode.
That's terrific for a couple of reasons. One is of course if what you're worried about happens, you're gonna have a prepared response. But the other thing is that if the emotion that you're worried might be triggered that could make you lose your composure or wanna run out of the room, if it's triggered, it will have already been triggered in the roleplay. And so the emotion itself won't surprise you and it turns out it is the emotion as much and more than anything else that tends to derail as well. I don't know, I'm upset, I, yeah, I feel like out of control and we run out of the room.
So, I'm a big fan of role playing and then there's sort of the behavioral piece. If you can schedule your negotiation so you can go for a run beforehand or swim if endorphins tend to calm you down or maybe take a break for yoga at lunch or to do some meditating.
SL : Have lunch with the people who make you feel like the most hilarious, delightful, charming person in the world. Don't have a drink, definitely don't do that. And you know, sometimes promising yourself an added incentive, if you stick with your plan, you'll reward yourself with purchase, a piece of jewelry, a sports car, whatever, maybe a great vacation, whatever it is that'll make you think, yeah, that's gonna make me smile, I'm gonna keep going. And the smiling itself helps calm down whatever lower the temperature because when you smile at somebody because of the way our neurons mirror the neurons at somebody else, the other person's very likely to smile. And when people smile, that doesn't in fact cheer them up, even know it's a phony smile, but it just cheer people up and people who are more cheerful and more creative tend to reach better agreements. So I'm a big fan of that as well.
NM : I think those are three excellent points that you, you kind of described there, Sara, thank you so much for that. I love the advice around preparations, around the standards of legitimacy of really just coming to a table prepared. And then yeah, like I said, rehearsing ahead of time is just always something that Aram and I are a big proponent of, especially from our military backgrounds. It's been ingrained in us and if I think if more people, not even just women, just more leaders were to just rehearse more, they would be much more successful in negotiations. So thank you for sharing all that
AD : And I'm gonna pick on one more piece of that cuz it was just such great advice. You talk about the value you bring and I can't remember now if it's your work or Linda's work or Deborah Col's work that I was reading about negotiating what you're worth and just the inherent challenge in doing that. And is there any more you can say about how, I guess anyone, regardless of gender or identity group, you know, obviously we're focused on women today, but regard how do you do that? Well, really negotiating what you're worth.
SL : The research is so important. So I would say, you know, start with your boss, treat them that person as an ally and say, you know, this is what I wanna do. This is where I wanna go. Tell me where I am, how close I am, what else I need to do to get there, that kind of thing. Number two, if you get an evaluation that feels inaccurate or unfair, they overlook something you did, they undervalued it, consider negotiating, go back with the information saying, you know, this is what I accomplished, these are the metrics, these are the targets. And try to get that evaluation adjusted because that can have a big impact both on your promotion schedule, on the rate at which you get ahead, but also your compensation. And then, you know, go to HR. I taught a big workshop at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia a number of years ago, and there were women from all across the institution and one woman raised her hand and said, I just don't know what the formula is, I don't know how they figure this stuff out.
And there was someone from HR there and she said, Come and ask us , We could tell you what the formula is, we can tell you what the system is, but then, you know, talk to your social and professional networks, reach out to colleagues in your field outside the organization. Sometimes you can reach out to your professors or the people you trained with and they may have contacts you can talk to or they may know of useful research if you belong to a professional association. A lot of professional associations compile data about what people are making at different levels and you know, you can see these are often parts pretty fine. The websites that help you look for a job also have a tremendous amount of data that's all regionally specific. And, uh, you put in your zip code and you'll get a good answer about what people in your region are getting, getting to do what you know, what the market is paying.
SL : And also, you know, the women's pages or the women's subcommittees in those professional associations often compile a lot of female specific data for the field. And then one more thing I'll say is wherever you trained, wherever you got your undergraduate degree, your MBA, your PhD, your medical degree, the career services departments of those institutions not only often collect tremendous data, but they can put you in touch with people who went to the same school you went to who might be in the field either at your organization or a pure organization who are usually happy to talk to somebody who went to the same institution.
AD : Yeah. Great insights. Thanks, Sara.
NM : Hey everyone. Nolan here. I'm gonna have to jump in and end the conversation for today's episode. Please be sure to join us next week as we continue our conversation with Sara.
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