Speaker encourages women to be assertive in the workplace

Numerous women gathered to hear Sara Laschever speak at the South Dakota State University Women’s Leadership Summit April 8.

Laschever, who co-authored two books with Linda Babcock on the subject of women’s negotiation in the workplace, presented an hour-long talk about how women are afraid to ask for what they think they deserve.

Whether it be initial career salaries, raises or promotions, Laschever believes that women usually take what they are given. Males, on the other hand, are more likely to challenge the system according to Laschever.

“Men initiate negotiations four times more often than women,” Laschever said. This contributes to a woman’s overall pay and happiness in the workplace.

To illustrate her point, Laschever told a story about Babcock, her co-author. Babcock was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University when a group of female graduate students approached her. They asked Babcock why so many men were running their own classes while all the women were stuck being teaching assistants.

This question prompted Babcock to look into the issue. Babcock’s research showed that the men were teaching classes simply because they had asked while the women had not.

Sophomore economics major, Samantha Downing, says this was her favorite story of the night.

“I thought it was interesting that female PhD students weren’t teaching classes just because they hadn’t asked like their male counterparts had,” Downing said. “The school wasn’t trying to discriminate, but it happened unintentionally and gave male students an advantage.”

Laschever believes that this is not an unusual occurrence. This unintentional discrimination happens often. Laschever said that women do not ask for the treatment they think they deserve out of fear.

Laschever and Babcock’s book “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide” said, “[In a survey] men associated words such as exciting and fun with negotiation far more than women, who were more likely than men to choose words such as scary.”According to Laschever, there are three reasons why women are afraid of negotiation.

The first of which is socialization. Laschever drew attention to how things like children’s toys tell girls to take care of others. They nurture baby dolls and cook in plastic kitchens while boys are usually encouraged to play with legos and trains in order to set goals and problem solve. Laschever believes that it’s harder for people to ask what they think they deserve when they have been taught to think primarily of others.

Student Shay Corrie said, “I was surprised when Sara talked about the ways boys and girls are socially conditioned differently since birth. It stunned me when she said ‘[we are taught] girls work for love, boys work for money’ and I was saddened by how true that is.”

In an interview conducted by The Woman’s Connection uploaded to Youtube on Nov. 11, 2011, Laschever talked about the second reason why women don’t negotiate.

“There is another factor which is the treatment we tolerate and accept from adults. It’s been shown by many studies that we, as a society, don’t like women who are too aggressive,” Laschever said. “The combination of being conditioned and socialized to be more modest … and worrying if they do ask for something that they may get a negative response and not get what they want, makes [women] feel a lot of anxiety about negotiating.”

Lastly, Laschever talked about women’s social networks. Women don’t have access to peer-provided information and advice.

“Men are more likely to go out for drinks after a long day at work or after the sessions at conferences,” Laschever said. Laschever says that close connections provide men with more professional information and advice which could make a difference in the workplace.

At the end of the talk, Laschever went over numerous negotiation tips and tricks for women. That wrapped up what both Downing and Corrie thought of as a beneficial event.

When asked how she felt about negotiation before and after the Women’s Leadership Summit, Downing said, “before this summit, I hadn’t thought too much about negotiation. I definitely had never thought that I might have to negotiate my wages with a future employer … I still feel that negotiation is intimidating, but I do accept that it will be an important part of my professional life.”

“For me,” Corrie said. “I think the biggest take away was learning just how much women stand to lose if they don’t negotiate, gather research and connect with their co-workers and superiors.”