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Book Review: Women Don’t Ask

My Negotiation and Conflict Resolution class has been really rewarding so far, but by far the best part of it has been discovering the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. It’s been a bit of a revelation for me, making me realize that the world is far more negotiable than I think. However, statistically, women are less likely to ask for what we want, and when we do ask, we tend to get less than what men do. Some reasons for this:

  • We’re more anxious about conflict.
  • We tend to believe our circumstances are more fixed than they really are.
  • We expect other people to treat us fairly.
  • We tend to be more satisfied with what we have.
  • We think of our incomes in terms of what we need instead of what our work is worth.
  • We set our goals lower.
  • If we are more forceful in pursuit of our goals, we tend to be viewed more negatively because of it.

The good news? Women tend to have a collaborative negotiating style, which has been shown to result in better outcomes than a competitive style. My professor calls it the enhanced best deal: instead of fighting to get the biggest piece of the pie, you make the pie bigger so everyone gets more. This takes a lot of openness and trust in order to share information and brainstorm creatively together—more like problem-solving than traditional bargaining. This is the strategy that seems to be favored by most negotiation teachers today. The fact that they’re trying to teach people to negotiate more like women is really reassuring to me, and makes me more confident in my own abilities to negotiate well. Preparation goes a long way toward reducing my anxiety about it!

Pardon the newer, girlier cover.

I really don’t think the problem is as gender-specific as the book suggests, though. Jason exhibits most of the characteristics described in the book, as do a lot of other people I know. I think it could be renamed Mainers Don’t Ask without losing anything. We really don’t! We’re just used to making do with what we have. And we’re so focused on what’s fair that we actually fight to give money to each other!

I’m in the middle of buying a new car right now, and I’m keeping the lessons from this book and my negotiating class in mind as I do it. Wish me luck!

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