Asking for it

The authors of Women Don’t Ask just released an excellent follow-on book, Ask for It. Women Don’t Ask explained the problem – women are trained not to ask for things and as a result get less – but Ask for It explains how to solve the problem. I wrote HOWTO Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits – for Women in an amateur attempt to fill this gap. Read Ask for It for in-depth professional advice backed up by numerous studies and experiments.

A particularly depressing chapter is “The Likability Factor.” Women have an additional hurdle to surmount – while men can ask for things in a confident, assertive manner, most people respond very badly to women asking in the same manner. From the book:

Using four actors, two men and two women, Linda and her colleagues created a series of videotapes. The videotapes show an employee who’s just finished a management intern program being interviewed by the head of human resources for a permanent placement in one of the company’s divisions. The division heads were then going to watch the videos and decide whom to hire for their sections. In some versions both parts were played by men, in others both parts were played by women, and in others they mixed it up: The division head was male and the intern was female and vice versa. In half the tapes, the freshly minted employees simply answered questions from the interviewers about their experience in the management intern program. In the other half, the actors used the same script and answered the same questions, but the intern also brought up the compensation package in a fairly aggressive way. […]

Men who viewed the tapes, when asked how likely they were to hire the intern, said they’d be willing to hire the male candidate whether or not they saw the version in which he tried to boost his salary. Even using pretty aggressive language didn’t hurt him with other men. But men reacted very differently to the female candidate. They were 50 percent more likely to hire a woman if she did not ask for the salary increase. In other words, the men’s feelings about the woman changed as soon as she declared that she deserved to be paid more – and changed for the worse.

Like the men, women who viewed the tapes were also much more likely to hire a woman if she did not press for more money. But women’s responses differed from those of men in one striking and revealing way. Women were also significantly less likely to hire the male candidate if he demanded a high salary. These results suggest two important differences between men and women who negotiate for themselves:

  • Women risk being penalized when they negotiate aggressively, whether they’re negotiating with another woman or with a man.
  • Men can get away with negotiating aggressively as long as they’re negotiating with another man.

This tells us that men enjoy a huge advantage in the workplace, since in [the U.S.] the vast majority of supervisors, managers, and senior executives – most people’s bosses – are men.

What I would love to see is a book aimed at managers on how to manage and respond to women, given the results of Dr. Babcock’s studies. It’s not just when it comes to negotiating initial salary that this information becomes important, it’s during the entire course of an employee’s career. For example, women tend not to ask for promotions or improvements in their working environment, believing that they will be rewarded if they simply do good work. As a result, women are more likely to become frustrated and leave a company without ever trying to negotiate a better deal with their management. When management is aware of this tendency, they can make a special effort to approach women about their job satisfaction and signal openness to negotiation and change, and reduce completely unnecessary (and expensive) turnover of their employees.

4 thoughts on “Asking for it

  1. Interesting…

    For example, women tend not to ask for promotions or improvements in their working environment, believing that they will be rewarded if they simply do good work.


    I guess I fall in the small percentage of men who don’t do this either. I have rarely asked for raises, changes of jobs, etc.. and just gone to find another job when it didn’t appear that good work was going to be rewarded. Whenever I have asked for a raise I have felt like a complete jerk for wanting special treatment (even when I find out that everyone else has gotten a raise by doing so).

  2. Re: Interesting…

    When we talk about inequities in the treatment of men and women, men often chime in to say that they have experienced the same problems under discussion. Whatever the intention of this response, the result is to redirect the conversation towards the experiences and problems of men.

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