Society of Women Engineers – Negotiation Tips for Women (and Men)


A few weeks ago I attended the national conference for the Society of Women Engineers in Nashville – the conference was excellent and there was an overwhelming amount of information to absorb. Among the countless well-prepared seminars, there was one that I found to be particularly interesting. The title of the session was Effective Negotiation and the speaker, Stacy Lennon, spoke at length about the importance of negotiation. Whether we realize it or not, our jobs likely include a significant amount of negotiation and it is important that we are good at it. 

Not surprisingly, women are statistically less likely to negotiate than men, and Stacy seeks to overturn that statistic. However, she explains that her suggested strategies for effective negotiation are equally valuable for both men and women.

#1 State your vested interest.

It is important to explicitly state not only what you want but also why you want it. This encourages the opposing negotiator to offer options that will benefit your cause.

#2 Know your BATNA. (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) before you begin.

In other words, establish a minimum outcome that results from the conversation and reject all offers that are worse than that minimum. Knowing this before you begin will help you to maintain your position during a stressful discussion.

#3 Frame what you are seeking as a negotiation on the behalf of others.

Present your position or need as a benefit to others so that the opposing negotiator considers the impact of the outcome. If your need is on the behalf of an entire team of people, it becomes more significant.

Conventional negotiation favors masculine approaches over feminine styles. For this reason, women in particular find negotiation to be a daunting task. Additionally, many women face the likeability-competency conundrum and shy away from insistent behavior. This conundrum describes the results of a well-known experiment that concludes that women are socially punished for engaging in assertive actions. This reality causes women to be less likely to negotiate. Stacy suggests that we all pay careful attention to our reactions when a female speaks up – if you wouldn’t flinch if a man said or did the same thing that a woman just did, then don’t penalize her for doing it.

The bottom line – encouraging both women and men to negotiate confidently will provide benefit to us all.  

-Tracey Fischer, Mazzetti Designer

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