Why Negotiating Can Often Be A Minefield For Women

March 19, 2014  |  

Women already earn less than men so why not try to negotiate for more? It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?  Well, according to an article in Slate, one woman tried to empower herself by negotiating for more money from her potential employer and it backfired.

Some employers don’t merely say no. “…[B]osses can do a lot worse than say no–they can assign us fewer projects because we lack team spirit. They can label us rude and uncooperative. They can even rescind our job offers,” reports Slate.

The slighted woman, reports Slate, was extended a tenure-track philosophy post at Nazareth College. She answered the selection committee with an email seeking five provisions, among them were: 1) “An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years”; and 2) “An official semester of maternity leave.”

They allegedly responded:

Thank you for your email. The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.

Needless to say the woman was shocked. This is just one example of the dangers of negotiating while female.

According to a 2007 study by Linda Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles, men and women prefer not to hire and work with women who seek raises. But there is no backlash  for men who demand pay increases.

If you do negotiate , tread lightly. “It’s not that women can’t negotiate, but they have to be much more careful about how,” Babcock said. “Men can use a wide variety of negotiation approaches and still be effective. But women generally need to pull off a softer style.”

Bosses, it seems, are thrown off when a woman is aggressive on the job (guess the “lean in” philosophy goes out the window).”We’re used to seeing women being less aggressive, more soft. And when people don’t behave the way we expect them to, there are often negative consequences: You’d see similar social penalties if a man in a business context broke down and cried,” says Babcock.

We also wonder if there are a different set of criteria for African-American women, who are often judged by different standards on the job.

Have you asked for a raise recently?

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