Top Ten Business Deals of 2013: Women Lean In

By — on / Dealmaking

It wasn’t a single mega-deal, but possibly thousands of small ones that sprang up following the publication of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead this year.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Sandberg’s quest to empower women to advocate for themselves is emboldening women to negotiate for more equal compensation and greater responsibility at work.

In Lean In, Sandberg describes negotiation research suggesting that we tend to respond more favorably to successful men than to successful women. Internalizing this dilemma, women correctly intuit that they will face a backlash—in the form of being disliked by their coworkers—if they negotiate on their own behalf.

Women can avoid such a backlash by using what Harvard Kennedy School professor Hannah Riley Bowles and her colleagues refer to as relational accounts—explanations for requests that both seem legitimate and display a concern for organizational relationships.

For example, when requesting a raise, a woman might explain that her team leader advised her to try to improve her compensation because it is low for her position.

Along these lines, Sandberg advises women negotiators to “think personally, act communally” when negotiating on their own behalf, being careful to substitute “we” for “I”: “We had a great year” rather than “I had a great year.”

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