International Women’s Day is March 8. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, which resonates with me and my team on so many levels. It resonates with me as a father of two amazing young women. As they grew up, I witnessed many biases. In the classroom, I watched teachers call on boys before girls to answer questions. On the playground, I saw that boys got to be captains before girls did. When my daughters became teenagers, I saw the toll that societal expectations put on them as they navigated the frequently difficult journey to becoming who they are today. It was hard to watch.
Quite frankly, it wasn’t something that I really paid attention to till I had the responsibility of raising my daughters. Then, it was too obvious to ignore. Thank goodness my wife is such an amazing coach and guide on this journey, or I would’ve been lost. If you aren’t aware of the biases that face women today, allow us to remove those blinders for you. If you are aware, then let’s go one step further and break those biases altogether.
We asked our team about the biases they face at the negotiating table and what we can do to break them. Here’s what they had to say.
Julie Shen “The business world needs to #BreakTheBias that labels women as ‘aggressive’ when they’re assertive. Professionals should never be afraid to exhibit winning traits, including being clear about their objectives and pursuing their goals in a deal.”
Julie described a scenario she’s seen multiple times: “A woman prepares for a negotiation, is confident that her team has leverage, and the other side has even indicated they want to get a deal done. She feels confident, but as she starts her opening statement, a voice in her head says, ‘Watch out. Don’t be too aggressive or they’ll think you’re a b***h.’”
Julie lamented that women have internalized this bias. “Listening to that voice can cause a woman to make unnecessary concessions and weaken her position.”
Jill Campen “It’s important to #BreakTheBias that there’s a specific mold or blueprint to be a successful negotiator. Biases in the workplace prescribe how women ‘should’ be. Julie’s point about double standards illustrates this. Another double standard I see regularly is that women ‘seem weak’ if they’re collaborative. When a man demonstrates the same quality, he can be perceived as a facilitator or someone who ‘gets it done.’
“Ultimately,” Jill explained, “double standards and other biases tell women ‘you are not allowed to be who you are,’ and that deprives professionals of their authentic selves and prevents good ideas from coming into the workplace. Sharing ideas that create solutions, whether they're readily acceptable or outside the norm, is at the heart of my work. I hope women can bring their whole selves to their professional lives, including their creative, collaborative, and nurturing selves.”
Ananda Laberge “It can be challenging for women to bring their authentic selves to work if they wrestle with not being heard or respected at work. Unfortunately, this can be especially true in male-dominated industries or work environments.”
Ananda pointed out that everyone needs to #BreakTheBias that women’s opinions and presence matter less than men’s. “I coach women to make sure others appreciate their contributions by using negotiation techniques.
“I tell them, ‘Put your hand up for challenging projects, but make sure to get something in return for it!’” Ananda advises women to “take an assignment others may shy away from and give it your all, but attach value to what you are doing. You might negotiate for extra PTO or flexibility on days when you need to handle family responsibilities, like doctor or dentist appointments.”
Millie Davis noted that we need to #BreakTheBias that gender should play a role in negotiating. “Regardless of the gender on the other side of the table, preparation and curiosity are keys to success. We need to ask the people participating in an engagement open-ended questions to understand their motivations,” she added. “It’s always beneficial to interact with our negotiation partners as individual people.”
Hopefully, these perspectives help highlight the truths we all face. These biases not only impact our team and my daughters, but they also have an impact on us all. They’re at the core of stereotypes and discrimination. They’re what prevents inclusion. They’re what creates inequities and inhibits diversity. Whether our biases are intentional or unconscious, they make it difficult for all of us to progress. Awareness is the starting point, but action is what creates progress. How are you going to #BreakTheBias?