A woman professor, ‘W.’ gets an offer to teach at a college and writes to negotiate compensation. Their reply to her: ‘we hereby rescind the offer.’ What to do?

A recent New Yorker post recounts the story, and explores the dangers women face in the workplace negotiating for themselves. What should we make of W’s story and its implications?

Perhaps there’s more to W’s story than meets the eye; for example, she might have been wise not to negotiate by email. And perhaps the danger isn’t as great as it first seems; of my thousands of students, perhaps two have ever reported such employer behavior. But a troubling fact remains: research finds that women who do ask to negotiate their compensation are, more than men, in danger of getting rebuffed.

What to do? Be aware but not discouraged.

Keep in mind that studies find women are better negotiators than men in congresses and parliaments around the world. So women seem to face a social penalty when they ask for themselves, not others.

Curiously, while the article is generally excellent, it suggestions struck me as fuzzy and rather weak: it first suggests institutions must change. True, but are we going to wait for institutions to get their act together before justice rolls down like a mighty stream?

Margaret Neale, a leading professor of negotiation at Stanford, says women need to ask themselves three questions as they get ready to negotiate: for Whom, How, and Why.

That is, ‘(1) For whom am I negotiating, (2) How am I asking, and (3) Why am I asking?’

That’s because (1)women do better when they see themselves as advocates for others, not themselves; (2) framing the request in a humble, inquisitive way with creative, mutually beneficial, package suggestions can help; and (3) understanding the interests can reveal wise options.

You can see more from Prof. Neale on this subject at this YouTube video, especially starting at 9:00.

You can learn more about specific ways women negotiators can ‘lean in’ well by reading my Huffington Post article, Winning Warmly.

Perhaps W. would have fared better with these insights…and by talking in person to the right person.

Or perhaps she’s better off not working for that place after all.

Here’s to creating- and negotiating- a more just world.