Cover image for Women don't ask : negotiation and the gender divide
Women don't ask : negotiation and the gender divide
Babcock, Linda, 1961-
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 223 pages ; 24 cm
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HD58.6 .B33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HD58.6 .B33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HD58.6 .B33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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When Linda Babcock asked why so many male graduate students were teaching their own courses and most female students were assigned as assistants, her dean said: "More men ask. The women just don't ask." It turns out that whether they want higher salaries or more help at home, women often find it hard to ask. Sometimes they don't know that change is possible--they don't know that they can ask. Sometimes they fear that asking may damage a relationship. And sometimes they don't ask because they've learned that society can react badly to women asserting their own needs and desires.

By looking at the barriers holding women back and the social forces constraining them, Women Don't Ask shows women how to reframe their interactions and more accurately evaluate their opportunities. It teaches them how to ask for what they want in ways that feel comfortable and possible, taking into account the impact of asking on their relationships. And it teaches all of us how to recognize the ways in which our institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions perpetuate inequalities--inequalities that are not only fundamentally unfair but also inefficient and economically unsound.

With women's progress toward full economic and social equality stalled, women's lives becoming increasingly complex, and the structures of businesses changing, the ability to negotiate is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Drawing on research in psychology, sociology, economics, and organizational behavior as well as dozens of interviews with men and women from all walks of life, Women Don't Ask is the first book to identify the dramatic difference between men and women in their propensity to negotiate for what they want. It tells women how to ask, and why they should.

Author Notes

Linda Babcock is James M. Walton Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management
Sara Laschever is a writer whose work has been published by the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the Village Voice, Vogue, and other publications

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Women, the authors tell us, don't ask for what they want and need because of socialized behavior: from business, where they don't ask for raises, promotions, and better opportunities, to the home, where they don't ask for help with family and housekeeping. After extensive research, the authors claim that women are less likely than men to use negotiation to improve their status--and all of society loses when they do not. The book examines how modern Western culture strongly discourages women from asking for what they need and offers suggestions for removing those barriers. In the workplace, individuals can be trained to stop taking a harder line with women, making adversarial ways of responding to and evaluating women less permissible; and women can be trained to ask as women, not mimicking the style of men. This thoughtful analysis could both benefit managers across industry lines and help women learn the importance of developing negotiating skills. --Mary Whaley Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Babcock and Laschever, contrary to their book's title, do ask a series of questions: Why do most women see a negotiation as an automatic fight instead of a chance to get what they deserve? Why are women afraid to ask for what they want in the workplace? And perhaps most importantly, why don't women feel entitled to ask for it? True to their academic backgrounds, Babcock (a Carnegie Mellon economist) and writer Laschever seek their answers in a series of gender psychology and economics studies (some done by them, most done by others). They cite numerous studies indicating that women are socialized to feel pushy and overbearing if they pursue their ideal situation when it spells potential conflict with employers or co-workers. The authors also use anecdotal evidence to support their claim that women are taught to feel like every negotiation is a monumental threat to a personal relationship, rather than a fact of business life (the view held by most men, they say). Their argument has important practical ramifications: the authors cite one study that estimates "a woman who routinely negotiates her salary increases will earn over one million dollars more by the time she retires than a woman who accepts what she's offered every time without asking for more." Babcock and Laschever's work is a great resource for anyone who doubts there is still a great disparity between the salary earnings of men and women in comparable professions. Alas, it isn't as successful at eloquence as it is at academic rigor.(Oct.) Forecast: Academics and feminists will eat this up, while casual readers may be less motivated to get through the dry text. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this well-documented study, Babcock (economics, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) and Laschever report that the feminist movement has not made the strides that many of us would like. The work asks why women in the workplace have such difficulty negotiating for themselves (as opposed to others). The reasons they see for this cultural timidity are many and varied: women are socialized to put others first and to devalue their own work; they are seen as negatively aggressive if they look out for their own interests; and they expect to be rewarded fairly for their efforts. The aim of their research is not to show women how to negotiate like men but rather to describe how the gender divide is still deeply entrenched in our culture. They have determined that women can achieve more if they would recognize their needs and ask for them. After an extensive discussion of these situations, the authors examine those instances of women's uniquely successful negotiating skills and their overall benefits to organizations and society, such as the abilities to see past two options and to create value through collaboration. The final chapter almost appears as an afterthought, though the points are well taken. They discuss women's negotiating skills in terms of home life, stress, heart disease, and AIDS in just a few pages. Neither a dry academic treatise nor a self-help book, this work puts forth a model for a society that respects women's communication strengths. Strongly recommended for public and all academic libraries.-Margaret Cardwell, Christian Brothers Univ. Lib., Memphis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Adding to the literature on gender-based differences in women, Babcock (economist, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) and Laschever (journalist) examine how these differences impact women's work and daily lives and the socialization process that contributes to their development. Specifically, they contend that "women don't ask": they do not negotiate to obtain more for themselves--a higher salary on being hired, job opportunities, appropriate recognition, a better work schedule, etc. Based on more than 100 interviews of men and women from a range of professions and from the UK and Europe as well as the US (criteria for selection unclear), the authors describe numerous examples in which women did not demand better outcomes for themselves. Several chapters explore why this predisposition exists, e.g., reluctance to upset relationships, fear of conflict and stepping on toes, severe anxiety, and lack of confidence. Interesting research studies are cited throughout. The most original and useful content addresses techniques to increase women's negotiating skills and success. The premise for the importance of learning how to improve outcomes for women is the fact that since the 1990s women's progress in the workplace has stagnated, perhaps due to women's deficiency in effectively promoting their own self-interest. Excellent references. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Undergraduate and graduate students of sociology and management; business and professional development personnel. R. Quinn CUNY Bronx Community College

Table of Contents

Preface: Why Negotiation, and Why Now?p. ix
Introduction: Women Don't Askp. 1
Chapter 1 Opportunity Doesn't Always Knockp. 17
Chapter 2 A Price Higher than Rubiesp. 41
Chapter 3 Nice Girls Don't Askp. 62
Chapter 4 Scaring the Boysp. 85
Chapter 5 Fear of Askingp. 112
Chapter 6 Low Goals and Safe Targetsp. 130
Chapter 7 Just So Much and No Morep. 148
Chapter 8 The Female Advantagep. 164
Epilogue: Negotiating at Homep. 180
Acknowledgmentsp. 187
Notesp. 189
Referencesp. 201
Indexp. 217