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The End of Men: Female IT execs at the workplace

Hanna Rosin | Oct. 8, 2012
Female tech leaders solving the family conundrum

No again. Too girlish.

“I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate, but I’m hopeful that you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I bring to the job.”

Bingo.

When the actor used this script, research subjects were willing both to work with the woman and to give her a raise. The key was to meet the stereotype halfway. The woman was polite, but firm. And they accepted her advocating for herself when she portrayed her needs as aligned with those of the company. She could negotiate for herself in order to prove she could negotiate for the company later.

The formula is maddening in its tightrope specificity and insulting in the capitulation it requires, Bowles admits: “If we could change the results of our experiments, we would choose a more liberating message.” But it is also pragmatic and, in its own way, liberating. When women negotiate, emotions tend to get in the way: excess humility, shame, resentment, outrage. Those feelings are not so helpful in building a reasonable case.

Create your own script

The Bowles strategy gives women something else to focus on, something that may even fall more in their comfort zone: creating a convincing narrative that explains why her own needs match up with the company’s.

Facebook executive Sandberg’s version of the script goes something like: “You realise you are hiring me to run the business development team, so you want me to be a good negotiator. Well, here goes. I am about to negotiate.”

Sandberg is friends with the feminist Gloria Steinem and they have a long-standing disagreement about this pragmatic approach. “But I say, you have to put your ego aside and play by the rules so you can get to the top and change things. Look, here I am at Facebook, in a position to institute five months of paid maternity and paternity leave. Isn’t that worth it?”

Emily White is one of Sandberg’s protegees and has reluctantly adopted the mandate that she play by the rules as well. “I am a really aggressive person,” White says. “ I have strong views, I’m very competitive and I expect people around me to be the same way.

But I’ve definitely tried to change my style and hold my tongue more. I always ask for other people’s opinions even when I don’t care about their opinions. And I hedge a lot more and use softer language.” Then she adds, “It drives me nuts. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up.”

Powerful women lean on husbands

 

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