Money & Career

How playing into stereotypes could work to your advantage

Is teaching women to negotiate "within the confines of the stereotypes" our key to success?

Boss at meeting

Photo, Masterfile

If you want to make more money then you need to recognize a few hard truths:

#1: Recent research suggests that women who go after raises and promotions at work are often viewed negatively.

#2: To get what they want (not to mention what they’ve earned) many women may have to play footsie with some irritatingly outdated gender roles.

An article on Today discusses this frustrating but all-too-real state of affairs in which women are punished for behaviours that are praised in their male counterparts.

“Sometimes it does hurt to ask,” says Nancy Rothbard, management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Sometimes women are penalized for initiating negotiations because it goes against the gender role stereotype of being warm and relational,” she explains.

To cope with this double standard and the attendant anxiety it creates for women — who rightly feel they should advocate for themselves just as men do — many experts in the field are offering gender-based strategies. In fact, women are being urged to use these stereotypes and biases to work to their advantage. That means rather than go into salary negotiations with confident self-entitlement, women are being told to present themselves as “warm and relational” and to ask for a raise because it will benefit the company.

“You’ve got to frame it in ‘we’ terms and take the other person’s perspective,” says Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who has done a great deal of research on the topic.

“In practical terms, this means women need to make a case for why what they want is also good for the company.”

Making that case to your boss may necessitate a little thoughtful planning before going into the boardroom (not to mention some anger-swallowing). But the payoff may outweigh the time spent coming up with all the reasons why the company would benefit from properly compensating a smart, capable, loyal professional who has the grace to put her ego aside to think about the greater good.

Hmm, maybe men might benefit from taking this P.O.V. in negotiations, too.

Read more: A cover girl that shatters stereotypes about female beauty