A double-edged sword
Women in business have it twice as difficult as men sometimes. When you’re assertive, it can be seen as unfeminine or even aggressive behavior, making it very difficult to negotiate. Thus, women tend to sit back and let things happen instead of asking for more money or time off.
It’s not just the anxiety about success or failure; women worry about losing relationships with others or being negatively labeled. Many researchers focus on women and negotiation in order to understand the dynamics to help women take a step forward.
Kathleen McGinn, Harvard professor, believes that women are better negotiators when they do it on behalf of others rather than for themselves. It’s almost as if a woman needs permission to negotiate, which is a probably a product left over from generations of the patriarchal society in which we’ve grown up.
Another study found that women were more comfortable negotiating their time, while men were more comfortable negotiating salary and financial items. With women traditionally making less than men, this makes complete sense, but it does need to change.
Learning the skills to negotiate
So the good news is that you can learn to negotiate. Join a women’s business association or talk to SCORE and ask for a mentor to work with other women who are successful in business. Take a negotiation class at a community college. Here, we give you six videos to help you master the art of negotiation.
When you’re ready to negotiate, don’t wait too long. You’ll get anxious and think about all the reasons you shouldn’t. It can lead to resentment when you’re looking at salary or vacation time. Negotiation isn’t a “you have to get everything you want” situation. It’s supposed to be a win-win solution for both parties. You may need to change your attitude about your position versus your interest.
If you need permission to negotiate for yourself, ask what you would do if it were a friend in your position (or how would you hope your current or future daughter would handle the situation?). Give yourself authority to discuss your position with the people who can change it. Treat the other side with respect. Have confidence in your ability to work out a solution that’s beneficial to you and the other side. You can negotiate to get what you need.