I have a friend who insists that there is no difference between the genders. She contends that women are as good as men in everything men do, and vice versa. I once heard her trying to explain to another friend how an NBA franchise would perform better if it enlisted WNBA players because it would be a more well-rounded team. I think she is wrong. There are real differences between the genders. And, unfortunately, real differences in the way people treat men and women in negotiations. Take the case of negotiating your salary.
Studies have shown that when asking for money in a job interview, men and women will receive different results even if they say the exact same thing. For example, if a man says “I am at the top of my industry and therefore feel I deserve pay commensurate with that”, interviewers will tend to perceive him as confident, and capable. He is therefore likely to get more money by actively asserting his perception of his own self worth.
When women use that same tactic, on the other hand, they tend to be perceived as overly aggressive and even bitchy. Even if a female candidate is clearly at the top of her industry and deserving of top pay, directly saying so will tend to hurt her chances of getting the job. This, surprisingly, holds true regardless of the gender of the person interviewing them. That is, being assertive when asking for money will tend to backfire for a woman, whether the interviewer is another woman or a man.
A colleague of mine, who is an expert on gender in negotiation recently shared another strategy that is more likely to get women what they want (and deserve). Instead of saying “I am at the top of my field and therefore deserve a salary that reflects that”, women tend to get better results by citing a third party to legitimize their claim.
Therefore, another strategy is to say the following: “My mentor who has been in this industry for a long time says that I am at the top of my field and therefore deserve a salary that reflects that.” By couching the justification in an external third party’s perception (rather than their own), women can avoid the negative affects of being perceived as aggressive, while asserting (and getting) what they deserve.