Friday, April 13, 2007

Women Don't Ask (But Should)

I saw this book at the airport and it grabbed me immediately. It's a must read for every woman, and really every man too. Written by an economics professor Linda Babcock and and a writer Sara Laschever, Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide focuses on how reluctance and lack of knowledge in negotiation affect women.

When Linda Babcock asked why so many male graduate students get to teach the best classes, while the women were placed as teaching assistance, she was told that "the women don't ask." Further experiences and research showed that men usually ask for what they want, while women hope their hard work and noticeable talent will result in their receiving good offers and just rewards. Guess what? It usually just doesn't happen.

I knew that women made something like 76 cents for every dollar a man earns in the U.S. I knew that men are more assertive, yet reading this book is still quite eye-opening. Here's an example:
Suppose that at age 22 an equally qualified man and woman receive job offers for $25,000. The man negotiates and gets his offer to $30,000. The woman does not negotiate and accepts the job for $25,000. Even if each of them receives identical 3 percent raises every year (which is unlikely, given their different propensity to negotiate and other research showing that women's achievements tend to be undervalued), by the time they reach age 60 the gap between their salaries will have widened to more than $15,000 a year, with the man earning $92,243 and the woman making only $76,870. . . . remember that the man will have been making more all along, with his earnings over the 38 years totalling $361,171. If the man had simply banked the difference every year in a savings account earning 3% interest, by age 60 he would have $568,834 more than the woman.

Men usually negotiate every job offer and this results in their getting 33% more on average than women who're hired for the same job with similar qualifications. Usually, if a woman receives a job offer and the money seems fine, she just takes it. She doesn't know that she should ask for more, that in some cases her not asking makes people think "She must not be very good." Boys negotiate and take more too as you might expect.

Another disadvantage is that women are told overtly and subtly not to toot their own horn. Eventually, we learn to downplay our accomplishments and skills. Since society tends to believe that we can't contribute as much or do as well, this doubly hurts our earning potential.

This book is filled with good research and pertinent anecdotes. Linda, who'd considered herself progressive, recounts going to the grocery store with her 4 year old daughter, who saw a toy she wanted. Her daughter asked whether Linda had enough money to buy her the toy. Then the little girl asked, "Do girls have money, or is it just men who do?" Linda was horrified and felt like a failed feminist. From then on she made sure her daughter saw her using and dealing with money.

This book will open your eyes. I haven't finished it yet--there will be a review part two. It's something I'm raving about and urging everyone to read. Please comment away after you have!

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