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The fairer sex must be… fairer?

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The fairer sex must be… fairer?

Women need to build ‘likeability’ to get ahead at work. New research from Melbourne Business School has found that it’s more important for women to appear ‘likeable’ than ‘competent’ when it comes to pay-rises and promotions.

Professor Mara Olekalns, who teaches negotiation management as part of the MBA curriculum, found that gender stereotypes were still in place whilst investigating the persistent 17 percent wage gap between women and men.

“The issue in negotiation is that the behaviour we normally associate with strong negotiators – competence – is also male gender stereotyped. This means that when women increase their competitiveness by demonstrating their competence, they violate their gender stereotype which prescribes that they appear more accommodating and relationship focussed.”

She also says that part of the explanation for the pay gap is that women are often their own worst enemy by being reluctant to negotiate. And when they do negotiate, they ask for less. But in spite of this, she says that harder negotiating is often not the answer.

“For women, negotiating harder often invokes a backlash effect where they get a poorer performance evaluation because they lose on ‘likeability’. They can be subjected to nasty comments in the office because they are perceived to be acting pushily.”

The solution? Women should always try to score ‘likeability’ points before signalling their work competencies. “My advice to women is to start any negotiation by building rapport through general chit chat”, says Mara.  “Find common ground and use it to clearly signal that you have the same values and goals as the person you are negotiating with.” 


6 October 2010

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