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Women don't ask

  • 12th Aug, 2004 at 1:51 PM

A nice postman came by this morning with a box. It was a delivery of books for me.

Included inside is a copy of Women don't ask: negotiation and the gender divide. This book was highly recommended by Val Henson whom Julie and I met at OLS.

This book talks about the trend for women to not advance as far in life because they don't negotiate. There are various reasons why they don't, including: believing that things are outside of their control, not wanting to hurt people's feelings, not wanting to seem pushy, not believing they deserve better, &c. And this hurts them since males will typically be more confident and self-centred, which means that males are more likely to negotiate for better circumstances and leave women behind.

I've noticed this trend in myself, actually. My sister is more assertive than I am, and she goes out to do stuff all the time, whilst I'm happy to stay home. One time, my parents told me that if I wanted to do things, all I had to do was ask. Before, I would just sneak out to do the things I wanted to do, believing that anything not expressly allowed was forbidden. What a startling revelation. To this day, I still have problems asking for things, preferring distinctly non-confrontational methods and media.

The book then goes on to describes ways that women can negotiate, ways unlike men, so they don't seem pushy or bitchy. It also gives suggestions for how the workforce can treat women equitably by rewarding women before they ask. This recognises the internal belief that people will see that a woman is doing good work, and avoids the uncomfortable situation of "demanding" something.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to everyone. It will open your eyes that people are different, and how to treat women differently, so that they are treated equitably.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
13th Aug, 2004 00:03 (UTC)

I knew about this trend, but didn't know there was a book about it. Awesome! ::adds to already absurdly long reading list::
13th Aug, 2004 00:19 (UTC)
You just gave a perfect counter-example, associating yourself amongst the 'unlike-men' nonnegotiating type, and your sister with the assertive males. And yet you seem to agree with the book's premise, that women tend to negotiate less. So why do you think that this is such a discrete trend amongst -women-, rather than just a personality trait that could be just as likely seen on either side of this "gender divide"? I just don't trust sociology to actually come up with this stuff.

I don't like trends; a trend is a horrible way to deal with an -individual-. I think that to "treat women differently, so that they are treated equitably" is probably the wrong way to go about it, no? Because this would -fail- in your situation, where your sister would negotiate and you would not. This difference probably has nothing to do with you being male and she female, or if it does it's so psychologically deep that it has no apparent relevance.

So why not eliminate the gender specification, and instead encourage the workforce to watch out for less assertive personality traits, so that they are treated equitably? That will achieve your goal, of promoting the nonassertive females, regardless of whether they're female or not... I just think that telling a manager to treat women differently is a sketchy way to ensure equality; because you're asserting that they're not the same, in personality. OK, you do assert this: "people are different"; but why is this difference gender-based?

Meh, iunno nuffin about such matters.... but I find these sociological arguments creepy, because they always seem to totally negate what they're trying to solve. I'm interested in your opinion.

Alternatively, why not encourage the workplace to treat men more like women, rather than women more like men :D
13th Aug, 2004 00:43 (UTC)
Re: huh?

Once upon a time...I would have written everything you just did.

If say, 80% of women are poor negotiators and 20% of men are poor negotiators, it is of course incorrect to say that ALL women don't know how to negotiate and ALL men do, but the trend is quite clear. The trend likely *does* have something to do with being a woman, whether it's being a woman in present society or being a woman biologically, or (more likely) the result of the interaction of both.

If one has the intention of assisting the largest possible group to learn how to effective negotiate, you will address a far larger group of people if you target women. And there is no law keeping men who need negotiation tips from reading the book, or forcing women who have mastered the skill to read the book.
13th Aug, 2004 00:59 (UTC)
Re: huh?
I assume that spider88 is in a land without sex equality and culturally different to here. That book looks needlessly sexist from here.
Then again, spider88 is a debian contributor IIRC and the debian project has a subproject for sexists.
13th Aug, 2004 01:01 (UTC)
Re: huh?
You are confused. spider88 is the comment above yours. sfllaw is the debian contributor. HTH.
13th Aug, 2004 03:54 (UTC)
Re: huh?

I am the Debian Developer, and I have no qualms about positive action towards women within Debian. Debian is a project that refuses to discriminate against groups, but is founded upon the basis of working together to help disadvantaged or under-represented groups.

For instance, we discriminate positively for users of non-Intel architectures. We help people from poor countries by offering essential software for their infrastructure. We allow anyone who wants to use our software, to use it. And we also encourage women to join our project and help us with our causes. In none of these cases should Debian should these people be made second-class citizens because of their state elsewhere.

Granted that women are not well-represented in the project right now. But I feel that the current is changing. There may be some people who are against women being treated better, but I believe that they do not hold the majority opinion.

I'm not sure that there will ever be true equality among the sexes, but that's because there are various physical differences between them. However, there is nothing preventing us from treating each other equitably. And if some groups need extra help to be boosted into an equitable state, then those who are privileged should give this help freely.

13th Aug, 2004 04:01 (UTC)
Re: huh?

Watching for specific personality traits is a good suggestion, but it belies the fact that personality is really difficult to judge until it is too late.

For instance, assertiveness is strongly correlated with self-confidence. So if you don't acknowledge people who aren't very assertive already, their self-confidence never gets to a point where they feel comfortable being assertive. After all, if you don't feel very good about yourself, you're probably going to get yourself into trouble by opening your big mouth.

As well, there is a cultural bias against women being more assertive, which further discourages them from speaking up for themselves. Why bother trying to ask for what you're worth, if other people (men and women) punish you for doing what other men do?

Cultural traits conspire against women, so although we are painting the group with a big brush; there are enough women who would benefit from favourable treatment that I think it would be worth it. As for people like me, I've noticed that women understand my personality much better than my male peers, so if women do better, I'll probably do better too.

I suppose you could try reversing the gender roles in the workplace. But then that would just make the men feel crushed, and they'd probably get upset. Best treat everyone better, no?

13th Aug, 2004 04:24 (UTC)
Re: huh?
treat women differently, so that they are treated equitably" is probably the wrong way to go about it, no?

The argument that "treating a historically disadvantaged group specially to reverse an injustice == just as a bad as the injustice in the first place" is flawed for many reasons.

There's a Famous Quote that says: "Nothing is more unjust than equal treatment under unequal circumstances".

Let's say you want everyone to be 7 feet tall for some random reason. So you issue everyone a 1 foot block to stand on. And if everyone was 6 feet tall in the first place, this would work great, right? But some people are 5'4, and some people are 6'3 and some people are exactly 6'. So if you each give them a 1' block to stand on, you won't achieve the same result in each case. Why? Because they're not starting from the same place.
24th Sep, 2004 16:53 (UTC)
Putting it on my list of things to read... long long list! ;( Thanks for the info. as I happened to come across your post on JnCs journal!

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )