Women in business and finance face certain biases and disadvantages in negotiations. They can be criticized for being “aggressive,” a trait that is often praised in men. Consequently, women can be less likely to negotiate. This article highlights a recent Security Traders Association’s Women in Finance Webinar and explains how women can leverage their skills and advantages in negotiation.
Whether it be for a contract, trade or promotion, negotiating is an unavoidable necessity, no matter where one sits in the industry. However, there is little formal education or training on how to be adept at this vital technique, and for women in finance, negotiating in what has historically been a male-dominated space comes with particular challenges – but also opportunities.
On a recent Security Traders Association (STA) Women in Finance (WIF) Webinar, Joe Holt, Professor at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame—who teaches Negotiations in the college’s MBA and MNA programs—presented actionable insights to help women in the industry better navigate these situations.
After Jim Toes, President and CEO at STA, and Kate McAllister, WIF Co-Chair from Global Liquidity Partners, set the scene for the presentation, the call began with a summary of the characteristics of the five styles of negotiation as developed by G. Richard Shell – avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising and collaborating — as well as a high-level overview of the positives and negatives of each. As Holt noted, no one particular style is better than the other, but identifying and being aware of your own approach to negotiation allows you to build upon your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.
Holt explained that individuals tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to negotiation: competitive or cooperative. While there are advantages to both approaches, those who are competitive are ultimately less likely to take into consideration the wants and needs of the opposing party. Holt recommended thinking of the negotiation as a win-win situation as opposed to a competition, with studies showing the collaborative approach leads to better overall results for all parties involved. While men tend to see negotiations as a game in which the objective is to win, Holt expressed women tend to view negotiations more as a collaborative endeavor in which both sides win. Ultimately, women are also less likely than men to engage in the harmful negotiation behaviors.
On the flipside, Holt noted that women face a number of obstacles in negotiation, including the fact that many tend to rely on the idea of fairness, believing that they will be recognized for their efforts and rewarded accordingly — though this often is not the case. Studies show that women who ask for a raise are more than twice as likely to get one as women who do not. Furthermore, in addition to being subjected to double standards (such as being penalized when they exhibit “masculine” tendencies) women are disadvantaged in high-ambiguity situations, with Holt suggesting that women can help each other by being more transparent about information in general.
Fielding questions from Julie Andress of Keybanc Capital Markets on how women can negotiate for flexibility as firms contemplate the return to the office, Holt shared that in his experience, people don’t lose jobs because they negotiate, but because of how they negotiate. If you’re a top talent, use that as a bargaining chip when negotiating in addition to citing positive business results from WFH. The call concluded with Holt addressing a question from McAllister, who asked if there are any negotiating skills typically performed by men that women can learn from. Holt said that if nothing else, women should have one takeaway: Just ask for it.