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An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Negotiation

June 13, 2014

Sorry, faithful Duck readers, for the radio silence – I’ve been traveling for much of the last month and then – ugh – just started teaching a daily undergrad class.  I promise – real blog posts are coming!  In the meantime, I wanted to fill you in on some information I’ve been digesting in the last month.  The information should be enough for all of us to “rant” about.

A few weeks ago, I was at the Vision in Methodology conference – a wonderful conference for women in political science that are interested in all aspects of political methodology.  One of the sessions was on implicit bias – a topic where there is a lot of academic research concerning how our CVs, letters of recommendation, and publications could be unequally interpreted by the larger community (both men and women!).  I think the research has some telling implications for gendered variations in success on the job market and at tenure/promotion time.  Hazel Morrow Jones and Jan Box-Steffensmeier have a great piece on the topic at The Political Methodologist. I have a lot of personal anecdotes (ask me over a beer at ISA-Midwest!) on this one and am really trying to be conscious about my own potential biases.

Today, thanks to the powers of social media, I was informed of this great New Yorker blog post by Maria Konnikova on “the dangers for women who negotiate.”  The punch line:

“our implicit gender perceptions mean that the advice that women stand up for themselves and assert their position strongly in negotiations may not have the intended effect. It may even backfire.”

Ouch.  I’m still fairly new to the game of negotiations – I find the process scary and intimidating. Asking for an extra couple hundred in travel funds is enough to make me sweat. However, I also know there are times where negotiations need to occur – for me, for my family, for what I want out of life.  It’s definitely disappointing to see all of the research on how negotiations can be particularly dangerous for women.  The advice at the end of the blog – based on some social science research – is to make negotiations about the “team” and the “broader organization” (ie “Giving me more money is good for all of us, we can build something here” or “The extra travel funds are a great way for us to continue improving our department’s trajectory”).  Intuitively, that makes a lot of sense and is something I’m going to try.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are easy answers to issues of implicit biases and negotiation – as the blog posts ends:

 “negotiation in which gender is involved remains a careful, precarious balancing act.”

And that statement alone should be enough to make us all want to “rant”!

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Amanda Murdie is Professor & Dean Rusk Scholar of International Relations in the Department of International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs (Stanford, 2014). Her main research interests include non-state actors, and human rights and human security.

When not blogging, Amanda enjoys hanging out with her two pre-teen daughters (as long as she can keep them away from their cell phones) and her fabulous significant other.