Why is there such a huge gap in pay and representation in senior positions between the sexes? One knee jerk answer is simply that women don't negotiate as hard as men. No wonder, then, that they're paid less, some folks might say.

These people make a valid point. Women do negotiate less than men, but that's also only half of the story. You also need to ask: why don't women negotiate harder? The answer isn't some inborn preference for sweetness and compliance. It's that women are punished severely when they come across as pushy and self-centered, while men are celebrated for the same hard-charging traits.​

"When women advocate for themselves, they have to navigate more than a higher salary: They're managing their reputation, too. Women worry that pushing for more money will damage their image. Research shows they're right to be concerned: Both male and female managers are less likely to want to work with women who negotiate during a job interview," Emily Amanatullah, a business school professor who studies women and negotiating explained to NPR.

Winning at negotiations anyway is the best revenge.

This, in a word, sucks. But until that glorious day comes when this sort of bias is eliminated from the world, is there anything women can do to get around this obnoxious reality? Yup, Sheryl Sandberg told a recent forum at Stanford University. (Hat tip to Quartz.)

Before offering her advice, Sandberg echoed the conclusions of Amanatullah and other researchers, insisting that tons of data confirm that, when women negotiate for themselves, they're seen as "bossy" and "aggressive" and that this has significant negative consequences down the line in their careers.

But then Sandberg goes a step further, suggesting a practical course of action for navigating these choppy waters. Boiled down to two words it is: "negotiate communally."

"I want to be clear, I'm about to give advice that I don't want to give, because I don't want these biases to exist. But the best way to get rid of these biases is to get women to negotiate well," Sandberg says before advising women (and often men too) to frame their requests as serving some larger good beyond themselves.

"If you are negotiating for a raise and you are a man, you can walk in and say 'I deserve this.' That will not backfire on you," she says. "We know the data says it will backfire on a woman. So I think along with saying 'I deserve this,' [women should explain] that, you know, 'This is important for [my] performance,' and 'This will make [me] more effective as a team member.'"

If you're raising money for your business, she adds, this communal approach takes the form of mission-based fundraising in which you sell your idea as a way to make the world a better place. 

Want to hear more from Sandberg? She makes an appearance at about the four and a half hour mark of this video of the forum and comes armed with an incredible amount of data, policy ideas, and practical tips.

Published on: Oct 24, 2017