Ask Jen

Negotiate Now: Tips for Women

How can women be stellar negotiators? McCombs professor Emily Amanatullah says to turn inherent sexism to your advantage. She talked strategy with Texas Exes career guru Jennifer Duncan.

Jennifer Duncan: Can you explain a little bit about your research on women and negotiation?

Emily Amanatullah: My research shows that what we expect about men and women defines how we interpret their negotiation. Whether women get punished or not for being assertive has to do with if their behavior is consistent with feminine expectations. Women have been socialized to feel more modest and less willing to self-promote, because there is social backlash if they do. But women benefit from being competitive and assertive when they frame situations in a way that is consistent with expectations of femininity.

JD: What expectations get violated when a woman negotiates?

EA: Women often experience social backlash when they self-advocate—say, by asking for a raise—because this behavior isn’t consistent with expectations that women are nurturing and communal. One way for women to get around this is to reframe the negotiation as about someone other than yourself.

JD: So if women can be more assertive by reframing the negotiation in terms of an “other,” like their families, what do you do if you’re a single woman?

EA: You may have more success when you ask for support for your team or your project, instead of for you individually.

JD: Many women think they cannot negotiate much other than their salary. How can they feel more confident?

EA: Preparation is the most valuable tool. Get as much background information as you can about the company, the position, and the market.

JD: Often my clients prepare a list of negotiable items. They get so much more than they thought they would, and are often able to negotiate many things besides salary.

EA: It’s important to realize you’re negotiating an employment package, and that salary is just one small piece of that. There are many intangibles to consider.

JD: I often hear comments like ‘I’d like more balance in my work life and home life.’ How should people consider values when negotiating?

EA: You should consider what’s going to make you happy down the road. Is this job really going to fit the lifestyle you expect to have in five or 10 years? People have to decide how much the intangibles are worth to them.

JD: What are some ways to negotiate salary if a company says it’s non-negotiable?

EA: Sometimes companies will say they don’t negotiate for new hires because of equity. In these situations, try to negotiate the opportunity for a raise or a performance review in your package. But never negotiate until you have the offer in writing.

JD: Do you think there’s a misconception about negotiating that you can dispel for us?

EA: I think the biggest one is assuming that all negotiations are competitive, fixed-pie distributions. They are joint problem-solving endeavors. By negotiating, we are trying to mutually satisfy problems as best we can. So approaching negotiations with that positive, problem-solving frame instead of a negative, competitive frame can be beneficial.

Edited by Gracie Fraser

Photo courtesy iStockphoto


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