We've been talking about women's negotiation deficits for so long that we've completely neglected the men. This post is an attempt to cure that omission. Listen guys! We care about you. And we'd like to help you with your negotiation problem.
In Speaking Out About Women And Power, U.C. Berkeley Psychology Professor Tania Lombrozo describes a study in which women experienced gender blow back when they voiced their opinions “too ardently.” The social scientists conducting that study asked a group of men and women to evaluate a hypothetical CEO who was described as offering opinions as much as possible or as withholding opinions.
Unsurprisingly, female CEOs who offered opinions frequently were judged less competent and less suited to leadership than their sister CEOs who withheld their opinions. Equally unsurprising was the way in which the study judged the men – as more competent and better suited to leadership if they spoke up often and less so if they didn’t.
Too many people have concluded from studies like these that women are stuck between a gender rock and leadership hard place but men are not.
As Lombrozo is quick to note, however, men faced a complementary danger: of being perceived as poor leaders if they didn’t voice their opinions. Members of both sexes were penalized for failing to conform to traditional gender stereotypes.
Listen. We are all judged according to the culture’s expectation for our behavior. Women are expected to be kind, patient, tolerant, loving, giving and self-effacing. Men are expected to be judgmental, tough, self-seeking and self-promoting. We all suffer social sanctions – from harsh judgments to electoral defeats – when we step outside of society’s expectations.
Those who would caution us to “act our role” or suffer the consequences, however, are missing the bigger picture, as are those who urge us to ape the style of the opposite gender. Let’s take negotiation as our example.
In a recent article at Huffington Post, Joan Williams writes that women don’t negotiate because they’re not idiots, citing yet another study confirming the imposition of social sanctions on women who negotiate outside their gender role. Sara Laschever, co-author, with Linda Babcock, of Women Don’t Ask and Ask for It, immediately dropped by to assert that Williams’ article mischaracterized Babcock’s findings, explaining that the "study used only used one negotiation script, in which both the male and female negotiators asked for higher pay in a fairly aggressive way.