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December 17, 2003

Better Read This

I've been reading this new book by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever called "Women Don't Ask" and it's pretty amazing. Thanks to Betsy Devine for bringing it to my attention. Here's Amazon's synopsis for starters:

When Linda Babcock asked why so many male graduate students were teaching their own courses and most female students were assigned as assistants, her dean said: "More men ask. The women just don't ask." It turns out that whether they want higher salaries or more help at home, women often find it hard to ask. Sometimes they don't know that change is possible--they don't know that they can ask. Sometimes they fear that asking may damage a relationship. And sometimes they don't ask because they've learned that society can react badly to women asserting their own needs and desires.
By looking at the barriers holding women back and the social forces constraining them, Women Don't Ask shows women how to reframe their interactions and more accurately evaluate their opportunities. It teaches them how to ask for what they want in ways that feel comfortable and possible, taking into account the impact of asking on their relationships. And it teaches all of us how to recognize the ways in which our institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions perpetuate inequalities--inequalities that are not only fundamentally unfair but also inefficient and economically unsound.

With women's progress toward full economic and social equality stalled, women's lives becoming increasingly complex, and the structures of businesses changing, the ability to negotiate is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Drawing on research in psychology, sociology, economics, and organizational behavior as well as dozens of interviews with men and women from all walks of life, Women Don't Ask is the first book to identify the dramatic difference between men and women in their propensity to negotiate for what they want. It tells women how to ask, and why they should.

Posted by Halley Suitt at 09:51 PM in Books | Permalink


Yes, It's a pretty interesting book, I've bought it
for my sister after reading the reviews, and I can't
wait for them to read it.

Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: jerry at Dec 17, 2003 11:30:26 PM

Assertiveness goes a long way. Thanks for reiterating that.

Posted by: Joel at Dec 19, 2003 6:10:26 PM

Let's just say that I hope their research was flawed.

The women I know in the IT world climbed
that ladder and along the way demanded recognition and financial
compensation. We have been architects of our career,
not victims that need to learn how to ask.

We don't ask, we prove ourselves and demand promotions and
higher salaries or move up somewhere else.

Posted by: meg at Dec 21, 2003 1:18:07 PM


Perhaps their research indicates a charicteristic of a population that does not include yourself. So when they say "Women Don't Ask", they don't mean "No female anywhere asks", they mean, "women are less likely than men to argue about stuff", but then had to shorten it so that it could fit on the front cover. I suspect this is the case. So no reason to get offended by the implication that this could apply to you, as I suspect it does not.

It's instructive that you refer to women in IT, who clearly are not your average women. I'm an EE, and I've been an advocate of women in engineering for some time. For good or ill (ill I'd say), women studying engineering is outside the norm, as is being an assertive, argumentitive woman. I'm fond of them, and they exist, but most women aren't that way, and most people probably aren't comfortable with them being so, in large part because this is what people know and are used to and have come to expect.

I think the point of the book was that *most* women don't ask. Then even if they prove themselves, they (most of them) *don't* demand promotions and higher salaries either. So if you're one of the women that doesn't do this, and that wants this to change, *please* don't claim it does not happen (that's how I read your post). I have witnessed it, you may have as well. Books like this get people talking about this stuff, get it out in the open, where it can be dealt with.

When I read about the book (there was an article in the NY Times this summer), I thought it was an empowering message. If someone has denied you something that you deserve, all you can do is demand it back or leave the arrangement, but if you are simply not claiming what's rightfully yours, then you're in the position of correcting you behavior and thus solving the problem. It's the difference between an internal problem, one under your control and thus easily corrected, and an external problem, which may or may not be under you control. For those who don't ask, this book may be exactly what they need to see to face their problems, and for those who do (like yourself), the example they set for the women around them can just as easily do the same.


Posted by: Ben at Dec 21, 2003 9:18:17 PM


The reviews on this book are excellent. The Amazon description includes a key sentence.

"With vivid research examples drawn from cradle, classroom and playground, the authors detail culture as the culprit in discouraging women from negotiating on their own behalf. "

And that is the part of the research is what I was looking for. Who did they include in the research? I was relating to the book description from the perspective of my world alone that includes the behavior and negotiating skills of my mother, my daughters, and the professional women I am in contact with on a daily basis. If there are people who find this book helpful then it is a worthwhile effort. I haven't read the book and naturally wouldn't. Nor would I know personally of any woman who would benefit from this type of book. Again, that is my perspective from the world I live in where the geographics and culture may be contributing factors.

When we speak up it is not to be argumentative. We are stating our opinion.

Posted by: meg at Dec 22, 2003 4:10:01 PM