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Why Women don’t ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (Piatkus)

publication date: Oct 7, 2008
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author/source: Karen Trinder

Why women don’t ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever is a very readable and well researched book which details a lot of evidence about the way women have been held back both by a male-dominated society and by their own feelings.

Although women have made great progress in the world of work, this has so far been mainly due to external changes – by some women responding to increased opportunities.

But for many women that progress has stagnated, and there is substantial evidence that gender inequalities are still the norm both at work and at home. This is due, in part, to women’s failure to negotiate their pay, work conditions, who does the housework and cares for children – in fact women settle for less than men in every aspect of their lives.

This failure has costs to women – they underachieve and suffer stress - but also businesses suffer dearly. Companies underutilise and undervalue female workers. Another surprising conclusion is that the male style of many businesses is actually counterproductive.

Many studies show that women fail to ask for what they need for many reasons:

  • they don’t realise they can ask;
  • they follow the rules;
  • they feel its not worth getting into a conflict -
  • they would gain little, but
  • it might spoil their relationships with others.

Many women dislike succeeding by asking as it is seen as aggressive. Ingrained gender stereotypes make women passive with low self-esteem and confidence.

Why women don’t ask does give some causes for optimism though – some companies have deliberately changed their culture to encourage women. If women were to network in the way that men do, this type of change could spread. Successful women would undermine the poisonous stereotypes that young girls absorb.

Women can become skilful negotiators if they overcome their aversion. If they do, their style of negotiating is all about collaboration and cooperation. This, rather than a battle of wills, can be helpful in the world of work and more companies are realising this.

Why women don’t ask isn’t a self-help book – there are no quizzes or sections on how to negotiate. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the studies and surveys. It was interesting to realise how hidebound and ingrained many of our female attitudes are.

Overall, Why women don’t ask left one feeling that things are going to get better – and that is a good way to feel! I would highly recommend this.

Published by Piatkus this book is available to order from Amazon - just click the link below:

Why Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation, and Positive Strategies for Change