Sunday, April 13, 2008

Teach Girls to ASK!

This book Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide changed my life. Reading example after example of research demostrating that many women don't ask for what they want, and therefore don't get what they want, helped me get over the trepidation I was feeling about negotiating for a salary for a position that I was being offered. And, I successfully negotiated for a higher salary, despite my nervous stomache, over my cell phone in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts, no less. Further, the woman who hired me still calls me a savvy negotiator.

I've told many women in my life to buy the book. Author and researcher Linda Babcock details how women are socialized not to ask and then shows us the startling results-- the heaps of money we'll never earn, because we did not ask. Asking is one behavior we can change-- and should-- to help us achieve financial independence and parity in the workplace. Fantastic-- as a result the individual women who start to ask (and the men and women who respond in the affirmative) will bask in the glory, all the way to the bank. But our individual successes will not change the world in which nice girls (and women!) are expected to take what's offered and not ask for what they want and deserve and penalize the girls and women who do.

Luckily--Linda Babcock is tackling some of this too. The New York Times covered her work with Progress a Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society at Carnegie Mellon University. Progress has created a pilot badge for Girls Scouts ages 8 - 11 will learn the steps to negotiation.

From a girls' programming perspective-- this is exciting stuff that can lead to real world change for the girls involved. If girls hear a competing message to the nice girl stuff, they have a chance at developing the skills that will serve them well as they grow into teens and adults. So often girls' programming can stuff girls into the nice box, that it's good to see a partnership that actively fights against it. I hope it goes national-- with girls and women everywhere asking for better starting salaries, raised and becoming formidable negotiators in all avenues of their lives.

Progress is also taking a stab at teaching negotiation through the video game Reign of Aquaria which is a valiant attempt at reaching more girls with the negotiation message but it's a little too puppies and clouds for me. I hope some fantastic folks interested in making change through video games can lend them a hand and some dinero for an upgraded version so they can make a huge impact.

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