In a survey of graduating professional students, Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon University, found that only seven per cent of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while fifty-seven per cent of the men did so. After years of analysis, she concludes that women might, in fact, be better off not negotiating.
Babcock is not the only person to draw this conclusion. Here’s why:
1. Women are often penalized for negotiating.
Men are rewarded for negotiating because doing so makes them seem tough and self-confident. But women are considered brash and annoying when they negotiate. The New Yorker reports how “Women who don’t negotiate may not be refraining because they are shy. They may, instead, be anticipating very real attitudes and very real reactions that are borne out, time and again, in the lab and in the office.” Often, negotiating has an even worse effect than saying nothing.
Most people are hired and fired based on the elusive cultural fit, which mostly means they can become part of the boys club, especially at higher levels. Women need to pass that test just to get an offer and they need to toe the line to keep from getting fired. Not negotiating is often an effective part of that strategy.
2. Women don’t get as excited about winning.
In competition, both men and women have a rise in testosterone. But whereas men see another rise when they win, testosterone levels in women don’t change whether they win or lose. For women, then, the process is more important than the success, according to Marvin Zuckerman, professor of psychology at University of Delaware.
Taking Sex Differences Seriously is a compendium of this type of research. Over and over again—in tennis, in trading, in management, and so on—hormonal differences are crucial to understanding why men negotiate and women don’t. Women have ten percent of the testosterone that men do, but women have high levels of oxytocin and estrogen which make women peacemakers and collaborators rather than dominators and competitors.
You can’t make a woman get excited about something her brain chemically does not care about. If it were life or death then maybe women could take testosterone (which has been shown to increase competitiveness in women). But surely hormone therapy doesn’t seem appropriate merely for salary negotations.
3. Learning scripts works better for women than negotiating.
Chris Voss spent decades as a hostage negotiator for the FBI, and he’s got some negotiating advice for civilians.
If someone says, “Let’s revisit your salary in three months.”
You say, “How am I supposed to do that?”
They will realize it’s an impossible thing for you to do.
If someone says, “It’s not a good time,” or “We don’t have the budget.”
You say, “It seems like there’s nothing you can do.”
People don’t like feeling powerless, so they might think of an alternative to demonstrate their power.
The most important script for women is probably the one that avoids having to give salary history. This is so important the the US Department of Labor is considering making it illegal to ask salary history because it serves to perpetuate salary differentiations between men and women.
For example, often women make lifestyle choices and take lower pay. But if you take a lower salary for a few years so you can have room to take care of your family, you should not have to reveal that salary when you’re ready to ramp up your career later.
So you need to learn a slew of scripts to get you out of any tough spot and keep negotiations going in your favor. Even if negotiations are dead, it should be because you chose to end them.
4. A more sure bet for a good salary is to work for a man with a daughter.
When male CEOs have kids, women benefit, according to a paper presented at the American Economics Association. When the first born is a girl, both men’s and women’s salaries improve, but women’s increase more. When the first born is a boy, overall salaries decrease, but only men’s actually reduce while women’s salaries improve, albeit slightly.
Or you could just play the salary statistics game. Keep your maiden name, because women who keep their maiden name get higher salaries. You’ll earn 14% more salary if you drink alcohol. And keep your chin up when the company starts to fail. You’ll be a likely candidate for your boss’ job because women get promoted when the organization is already going to hell.
5. Save your feminist rampage for another time.
Women do not teach men how to behave better through negotiating salary with them. Because men are not trying to be sexist. They just have no idea they are doing it. Women do not stand up for themselves when they negotiate, because the best way to stand up for women is to get power, and you can’t get power if you keep getting fired because of a bad cultural fit.
Also, please do not rip me apart in the comments for being bad for women. I still get threatening emails from when I said women should not report sexual harassment. Look, I’m not making the rules here. I’m not creating reality. I’m just reporting reality to you so you can make a good decision. You will be fired if you report sexual harassment and you will be fired if you negotiate as hard as a man does. Deal with it.