Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 28 Oct 08 13:04
We are pleased to welcome to The Inkwell, Sara Laschever, co-author of "Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." Sara Laschever has worked as a writer and editor for over 25 years. Her work has been published by The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Vogue, WomensBiz, and many other publications. She has written widely about workplace issues, and her interest in women's life and career obstacles led her to work as a research associate and principal interviewer for Project Access, a landmark Harvard University study that explored impediments to women's careers in science. In 2003 she co-wrote "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide" with Carnegie Mellon economist Linda Babcock. Fortune Magazine, in its 75th anniversary issue, listed "Women Don't Ask" as one of the "75 smartest books we know." This past March, she and Linda Babcock published "Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." "Ask For It" was recently chosen as a finalist for the Thirteenth Annual Books For A Better Life Awards. Welcome Sara.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 29 Oct 08 04:18
Let's start at the beginning, how did you come to write a How-To for women's negotiating?
Sara Laschever (saralasch) Wed 29 Oct 08 12:52
My mother, who had four kids, was a working mother who loved her work (she was a journalist). Inspired in part by her, I wrote a lot about women's experiences in our male-dominated business culture during the first two decades of my career. Then I met Linda Babcock in 1999. She'd noticed an odd difference between her male and female students (men asked for things that would promote their careers much more often than women did) and she thought it might be the basis for a book. But she knew she needed to work with a writer, and she wanted someone with a demonstrated interest in women's issues. I loved the idea and I loved her so we decided to work together on it. In 2003, we published 'Women Don't Ask.' The book got a lot of attention, both from the press and from women. Linda and I were both invited to speak about the ideas in the book to women's groups, corporate diversity programs, universities, even a Congressional committee exploring the causes of the glass ceiling. After pretty much every talk, we heard variations of the same comment: Okay, I know I have this problem, tell me what to do about it. Or, this is my situation, any tips about how best to negotiate? So we decided that something additional was needed: A guide to help women train themselves to be better negotiators, a book that would present negotiating as a skill-set women can master, and show them how to do that. And so we wrote 'Ask For It' to answer those questions and that need.
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Wed 29 Oct 08 15:48
How did you come to be here doing this interview on the WELL? Did you "ask for it"?
Sara Laschever (saralasch) Wed 29 Oct 08 20:59
No, actually, the WELL contacted me last spring and asked if I was interested. This was the first time we could find that worked.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 29 Oct 08 21:31
I'm really looking forward to this discussion, Sara. This is something I've wanted to learn about for quite some time.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Thu 30 Oct 08 08:14
Sara, I haven't yet seen the book, but I gather that it's a really practical as well as theoretical approach, with exercises and so on. Can you say something about that approach, why you chose it, how it's supposed to work?
Sara Laschever (saralasch) Fri 31 Oct 08 12:03
The idea behind the book is to help women approach negotiating as a skill-set that they can master, rather than as a talent some people have and others don't. We encourage women to look at their lives with a sense of expanded possibility. The message is that they don't have to accept the status quo, and there are a lot more things about their livesroadblocks, inconveniences, irritantsthat can be changed than they may think. Then we show women how they can bring about a lot of those changes. We teach them basic negotiation strategy--what professional negotiators and scholars have identified as the most effective ways of framing, assessing, and approaching negotiation situations. We provide resources to help women track down the information they need when they're preparing for a negotiation. This includes information about their own market value as well as information about the financial health of their organizations, new initiatives or budget changes or outsourcing plans or major strategy shifts they should know about, and information about the economy that could impact their situation. We recommend ways for women to increase their bargaining power if they don't think they're in a strong position to get what they want. Also, how to figure out the best time and place to ask, whether or not to make the first offer, and the pros and cons of bluffing. A special part of the program is what we call our 'negotiation gym,' which walks women through a wide range of negotiations to help them practice, better understand their strengths and weaknesses as negotiators, and become more comfortable with the process. It's a six-week program (although women needn't work through it in successive weeks), and by the end women will have completed a lot of different negotiations in different settings, they'll have more experience, and they'll be ready for the bigger negotiations that really matter.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 31 Oct 08 15:24
What a interesting approach! The information needed is such a key factor that it easy to forget about. I recently watched a friend who is much younger than I am buy a car. She totally walked away from the car dealer -- came to where some friends were partying and hung out with us for a few hours -- and she also knew exactly what the car had cost the dealer. So of course she got a good price. I was impressed because it took me years to learn both that confident approach and the research angle, and in her family both of those things have always been normal -- just what people do. Sure was a surprise to me. So my question is two part -- are attitudes changing, and are these behaviors that people tend to learn at home, or in their careers?
Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 31 Oct 08 16:28
And at what point do I start teaching my daughter so she never has to feel as Linda's female students do/did?
Sara Laschever (saralasch) Sat 1 Nov 08 17:19
Yes, I think attitudes are changing, but not nearly as quickly as you might think. We as a society still teach young girls that we don't like it when they seem selfish or greedy or grabby, and this translates into a reluctance to ask for things for themselves when these girls reach adulthood. To answer you second question, women who diverge from the standard paradigm may learn at home that they need to ask for what they want, and they may learn the best and most effective ways to do that. But women can also learn this as adults, either from mentors and role models in the workplace, or from training programs or sources like our book. As for how soon can you start teaching your daughter, I would say it's never too soon. It's also important, however, to teach your sons: That's it's not only okay for girls to ask for what they want and pursue their goals in a focused and direct way, but it's A GOOD THING-good for everyone.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 2 Nov 08 08:36
Now you're making it sound too easy, like all it takes is asking. That can't be right, can it?
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sun 2 Nov 08 13:13
This sounds like a valuable book. Thanks for writing it. When I'm teaching Politics of Gender, I always find it a fine balance to walk between explaining the ways that women contribute to their own worse status and explaining the ways society relegates women to lower status in many ways. Usually at some point I tell the story of when I was applying for a job as a data analyst, along with a male friend of mine. The person offering us the job named a starting pay of $12/hour. I said, "That sounds great!" My friend, who was sitting right next to me, said, "I already make $12/hour, and could easily just work more hours at my current job. To make this job worth it, since I have to travel out here, the pay would have to be substantially greater." He and our new boss negotiated back and forth, settling on $17/hour. Since I was sitting right there, I got the $17/hour, too. Otherwise, I would have never known it was even possible. I have also noticed that every semester since I became a professor, a male student (or two) asks if he can be my TA. Female students don't ask. Just this semester I decided to make a point of asking two of my superb female students if they'd like to TA for me next semester. They were both excited. It just didn't occur to them to ask. How much do you think the tendency of many women to be less likely to "just ask" is because women have a rational fear of being seen as pushy?
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 2 Nov 08 13:26
When I was growing up, I was actively discouraged from asking for what I want. In fact, if someone gave me something I had asked for, I had to give it back. Consequently, it's very, very difficult for me to ask for anything.
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sun 2 Nov 08 13:30
My parents were the same way. I remember one of my sisters asked me for a music tape for her birthday, and when I gave it to her my parents yelled at me and told me I was teaching her to be a spoiled brat.
Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sun 2 Nov 08 14:40
I'm looking forward to reading this. Everything I know about negotiating I learned from two books: "Getting to Yes" and "Games Mother Never Taught You" (which I am *still* giving to young women, despite its datedness). And maybe a bit of "The Intimate Enemy". I'm wondering if you'd care to share a summary of the principles of your program, and how it might relate to earlier works?
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Sun 2 Nov 08 16:58
Is there some kind of aesthetic wrapped up in this? For example, if I want to be viewed by others as aloof and self-contained, I may find asking for something as violating the aesthetic. I may be able to finesse this by some stratagem such as hinting or talking about what is desired a lot. We may also be sort of type-cast by those around us and reap some bitterness if we fail to act according to type. BTW, males and females may have different areas of interest in which they have problems asking. Good subject for all of us.
Jack King (gjk) Mon 3 Nov 08 13:08
Female domestic workers have real fears about "asking for it" -- they have a righteous fear then they'll REALLY get it: Shadow Workforce's Battle for Dignity Household Employees in India Seek Better Terms By Emily Wax Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, November 3, 2008; A16 CHENNAI, India -- On the day she asked her employer of 16 years for a raise, Pushpa Alamalai put on her best sari and wove a traditional string of jasmine flowers into her neatly oiled braid. But Alamalai, a housekeeper, felt so worried that she had trouble breathing. "I needed so much confidence to ask for more pay," said Alamalai, 45, a mother of four who scrubs the floors, washes the dishes and cuts vegetables for a middle-class family here for the equivalent of $22 a month. "I was working for so many years to their satisfaction. All those years I had not asked for anything." For Alamalai and other household workers in India, asking for a pay increase was once seen as risky. It often led to confrontations and, occasionally, firings. Household workers have no government protections, no minimum-wage guarantees, no health benefits, no paid holidays and, usually, no days off. Hindered by traditional prejudices against their low-caste status, many domestic workers say they have been forced to the sidelines as the middle and upper classes prospered during the country's decade-long boom. But that appears to be slowly changing. The rising expectations of India's legions of working poor have sparked an unprecedented movement to organize household workers and push for their rights. The effort comes as the supply-demand ratio for domestic workers shifts in their favor: India's economic rise has spurred more and more families to hire more and more servants. Increasingly, household help is seen as a necessity for India's busy families, as well as a sign of status in this class-conscious country. There are at least 100 million domestic workers in India -- 50 times the number of people working in the software industry. Domestic labor constitutes one of the country's largest job categories, behind farming and construction.... [but--] Alamalai and her employer spoke for the first time about how they could be better partners. Alamalai could come on time, dress better and call in on sick days, the employer said. For her part, Alamalai told her boss she needed more money to feed her family. Her employer declined to be interviewed, saying only that she felt that Alamalai's work ethic had since improved and that she deserved a raise. Alamalai's pay was recently doubled. Then again, her employer also doubled her workload. Still, Alamalai said she feels she has gained dignity.... <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/02/AR200811020220 3.html>
Sara Laschever (saralasch) Mon 3 Nov 08 21:15
I don't mean to suggest that this is an easy fix, that all you have to do is ask for what you want and you'll get it. Women don't get what they want and deserve for plenty of other reasons besides not asking. But if you never ask at all, the answer will always be no. You'll get a lot more if you start asking more--and asking for more when you do ask. Regarding gender studies and how much women contribute to their own unequal treatment, I'd like to stress that I do not blame women for this problem. Although women often do not ask for things that they could get if they did ask (as in your story of the salary negotiation conducted by your friend), women don't ask because they're taught from the time they're very young that it's not okay to ask, as Linda Castellani and Maria Rosales describe in their own lives. This leads into whether the fear of being seen as pushy is rational and well-founded, and I think it absolutely is. Research shows that neither men nor women like other women whom they perceive to be too aggressive. And we have ways of punishing women who behave in ways that seem pushy: We don't give them what they ask for, we devalue their work based on their personal style, and we stigmatize them with ugly names...overbearing, high maintenance, difficult, not a team player, bitch. Women are often straitjacketed by society's expectations for how they should behave and what they should be like. And while I agree that men and women often do want different things, I think women must struggle harder to ask for the things they do want. The Alamalai story from the Washington Post illustrates one approach that works very well for women--approaching the other negotiator as a partner in problem-solving rather than as a source of power who can give or withhold what you want.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 4 Nov 08 11:27
A friend of mine who has been involved in union organizing calls something like that approach "interest-based bargaining," I believe. I find one thing that causes some stress in asking for what I want is not knowing whether the context is to cooperate and problem solve, ask big and haggle like in a Mexican marketplace, or to perfectly hit the nail on the head to get it. I want things to be iterative, whether cooperative or haggle-down. I fear that I'll get to make one pitch of whatever I'm negotiating for, and get that rejected with no further discussion. When one does a big Mexican marketplace ask one doesn't want to telegraph that it is a haggle starting point, because it may in fact be acceptable. So there can be confusion. How can you establish the context, and figure out what game you are playing? And what can you do to change the game?
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 4 Nov 08 12:50
And how do you *start* a negotiation when it's not expected, and you may not be coming from a position that's as powerful as you would need it to be to be completely confident in your approach?
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Tue 4 Nov 08 13:30
When I got the job I currently have, my advisor advised me to negotiate over email, so I wouldn't back down too easily. It was very good advice. (Plus that way I could run every offer pass my advisor before responding.) But I know that often isn't an option.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 4 Nov 08 14:47
I am not quick on my feet in person, so e-mail works well for me, too.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Wed 5 Nov 08 07:43
(And a reminder to those following along who are not yet members of the Well: you can contribute to the conversation with questions or comments by e-mailing email@example.com and we can post for you.)
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 5 Nov 08 10:29
Meanwhile, a lot of the action and distracton has been in political discussions inside The WELL -- in places like <politics.> <current.> <media.> and the like, as well as getting out the vote and otehrwise being involved through yesterday's historic election. I think now we can all take a deep breath and look back at your book again, Sara, and at our own experiences too. Thinking of Obama's themes in his election, "Yes we can" and the "audacity of hope" are in keeping with the goal of being comfortable asking for it. I'd seen some parents and teeachers tallking about how good this moment is for children, and then I saw this Topic title and realized it is good for a lot of adults, too. Palin and Clinton were both very interesting to watch in terms of modeling leadership and confidence at different times, in different contexts (no, I'm not saying they are alike beyond that, and certainly not in ability or ideology), but Obama set a very good example for anyone, seems to me. Anybody else feel flat-out inspired by that?
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Thu 6 Nov 08 13:19
(I have been totally distracted by the election so apologize for lack of participation. I'll see if I can catch up asap.)
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