An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Negotiation

by on 2014-06-13 in Duck- 7 Comments

Sorry, faithful Duck readers, for the radio silence – I’ve been traveling for much of the last month and then – ugh – just started teaching a daily undergrad class.  I promise – real blog posts are coming!  In the meantime, I wanted to fill you in on some information I’ve been digesting in the last month.  The information should be enough for all of us to “rant” about.

A few weeks ago, I was at the Vision in Methodology conference – a wonderful conference for women in political science that are interested in all aspects of political methodology.  One of the sessions was on implicit bias – a topic where there is a lot of academic research concerning how our CVs, letters of recommendation, and publications could be unequally interpreted by the larger community (both men and women!).  I think the research has some telling implications for gendered variations in success on the job market and at tenure/promotion time.  Hazel Morrow Jones and Jan Box-Steffensmeier have a great piece on the topic at The Political Methodologist. I have a lot of personal anecdotes (ask me over a beer at ISA-Midwest!) on this one and am really trying to be conscious about my own potential biases.

Today, thanks to the powers of social media, I was informed of this great New Yorker blog post by Maria Konnikova on “the dangers for women who negotiate.”  The punch line:

“our implicit gender perceptions mean that the advice that women stand up for themselves and assert their position strongly in negotiations may not have the intended effect. It may even backfire.”

Ouch.  I’m still fairly new to the game of negotiations – I find the process scary and intimidating. Asking for an extra couple hundred in travel funds is enough to make me sweat. However, I also know there are times where negotiations need to occur – for me, for my family, for what I want out of life.  It’s definitely disappointing to see all of the research on how negotiations can be particularly dangerous for women.  The advice at the end of the blog – based on some social science research – is to make negotiations about the “team” and the “broader organization” (ie “Giving me more money is good for all of us, we can build something here” or “The extra travel funds are a great way for us to continue improving our department’s trajectory”).  Intuitively, that makes a lot of sense and is something I’m going to try.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are easy answers to issues of implicit biases and negotiation – as the blog posts ends:

 “negotiation in which gender is involved remains a careful, precarious balancing act.”

And that statement alone should be enough to make us all want to “rant”!

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  • Cheryl Rofer

    There is a problem with the way women are perceived in negotiations, but Konnikova’s example of W is a poor one.

    Nazareth’s enrollment is less than 3000 students. Colleges that small have limitations that W seems not to have considered in her wishlist. Knowing the other side is an essential part of successful negotiating.

    Paid maternity leave and a pre-tenure sabbatical probably would have required consultation with the governing board, which a selection committee and the administration probably would have not been eager to do without a strong case for changing the policies more generally.

    A cap on the number of new courses she would teach would involve faculty policies.

    Negotiating on any of those three would go beyond the hiring committee and impinges on existing policies. Is this person so special that an exception should be made, or should the policies be changed generally? That’s the question Nazareth was facing.

    Salary and starting date are legitimately negotiable, but small colleges have little flexibility in such things. Again, understanding Nazareth’s needs would have served W well.

    Perhaps it was an amateur mistake: thinking that negotiation means throwing out a wishlist in the hope that some of the wishes would be granted.

    I emphasize: it is true that women are disadvantaged in negotiations by widely-held perceptions. But I think that was a minor issue in this example.

  • Sara Mitchell

    What is interesting too is that in my P.S. piece with Vicki Hesli, we found that women PhDs in political science negotiate more often than men for most of the categories of items we examined (e.g. summer pay, RAs, teaching reductions). While not used in that paper, I ran some analyses of variables related to satisfaction (e.g. salary, influence in the dept.) and found women reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction. This seems to be consistent with doing less well in negotiations (and general climate problems for women faculty). APSA is paying to survey the same folks again, so we’ll try to embed some questions about negotiation outcomes this time around.

  • LauraSjoberg

    Nitpick: “negotiations in which gender is involved” = all negotiations; “negotiations in which perceptions of femininity are involved” = subset author is discussing

  • LauraSjoberg

    Nitpick: “negotiations in which gender is involved” = all negotiations; “negotiations in which perceptions of femininity are involved” = subset author is discussing

  • Amanda Murdie

    Good catch.

  • Amanda Murdie

    Good catch.

  • Megan H MacKenzie

    my experience is that tough negotiation from women may make men and women in positions of power ‘uncomfortable’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean these negotiations don’t achieve positive results. In other words, who cares if someone thinks you are a bitch or pushy, if you get the travel money or the maternity leave you deserve? It is a tough one, and I feel immensely uncomfortable in negotiations, but I’ve also learned that if you go in, ask for what you deserve (without over explaining or apologising) you often get what you want- and the possible negative feelings men (or women) you negotiate with will pass in about 10 minutes. It’s taken me a while to get here, but I’d rather be seen as pushy than a pushover (and unfortunately women don’t get to choose many other characterisations for the time being).