Monday, March 31, 2014

Negotiating While Being a Woman

Negotiation is a fraught topic for women. We are unused to asking for things, and when we do, we are likely to be punished for it, so no wonder we don't ask in the first place.

A recent case in point was highlighted here, where a candidate was given a tenure track offer, and when she tried to negotiate, the offer was withdrawn. Now, granted, this was in philosophy rather than astronomy, but it's still pretty alarming.

There's been a bunch of internet chatter about whether or not she should have negotiated to begin with or whether she did it the right way or the wrong way on Slate, Forbes, and even the New York Times. And if you read the comments on the Inside Higher Ed post (pro-tip: never read the comments) several people condemn the negotiator as being "a difficult colleague" or "delusional."

This just illustrates the double bind women face in negotiation. Always negotiate, we are told. Because we don't negotiate, we have lower starting salaries than our male peers, which compounds over the course of our careers. Don't negotiate like a girl. On the other hand, if we negotiate too forcefully (i.e. like a man), we can face retribution.

Now, there is plenty of good advice out there on strategies for negotiation. The trouble is, none of this addresses the underlying problem that both men and women treat women negotiators more poorly than men. As Amanda Hess says in Slate, maybe we should be asking the employers to be less sexist when negotiating with women instead.