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Women and Negotiating: Is It Worth the Risk? Part 2

In Women and Negotiations: Is It Worth the Risk, Part 1, we discussed how sometimes women don’t negotiate because they sense it will do them more harm than good, even though their finances and overall quality of life would benefit from earning more and having greater flexibility at work.

You’ve probably heard that ‘it never hurts to ask’ and that you have the most bargaining power after you’ve been offered a job but before you actually start. In article that says women should not always negotiate, The Atlantic offers the cautionary tale of a professor who counted on both of those ideas and to her dismay found her job offer rescinded: a college withdrew its offer of employment after she asked for a bit more money, paid maternity leave, a sabbatical, and a limit on the number of classes she’d teach. The offer wasn’t the start of negotiations as people sometimes tell you; the offer was all there was.

A senior lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government teamed up with Carnegie Mellon for studies with found that women were more likely to be penalized if they started to negotiate a job offer. Women in the study penalized both men and women who initiated these conversations.

Researchers at Rutgers found “when women are already in the hiring or promotion process—that is, when their credentials have already been screened and they are in the interview phase—the focus shifts away from their competence and toward their social skills. That effect is absent for male candidates.”

The  article also suggests that men [in power] reward men not to punish women but simply because “like attracts like.”

No matter the reason, the playing field is not level. Women need to be aware of how attempts to negotiate may be perceived and be strategic about how they negotiate because “No social-science study can tell a woman what to do in any particular negotiation. The variables are too complex.”   One piece of advice is to make sure you are clear about how your request can benefit the organization as a whole; advice with anyone could follow, regardless of gender.