Mom: The Great Negotiator? Not in Corporate America!

Great Negotiator

My Daughter:  “Mommy, I’m all done.”

Me: “Give me 3 more bites, then you can be all done.”

Sound familiar?

My Daughter:  “Mommy, I want to go outside.”

Me:  “Let’s read one more book, then we can play outside.”

You’ve probably uttered similar words, right?

Some say mothers are the “Great Negotiators”.  We seem to bargain, compromise and haggle on a regular basis from the moment our children can talk.  I have a nightly negotiation with my two year-old daughter about brushing her teeth.  I try to brush her teeth right after bath time, whereas she would prefer to play with her baby dolls or watch Minnie Mouse’s Bowtique instead.  She has thrown fits and tantrums in strong protest.  So…I negotiate.  If she brushes her teeth right after bath time, then she gets to hold her Minnie Mouse doll while watching Minnie Mouse Bowtique.  Otherwise, the option is to go straight to bed.  She agrees, and ultimately we both get what we want.


Whether it’s with them, or on their behalf, the art of negotiation is a huge part of our everyday personal lives.  We haggle at the farmer’s market so our family can get more fruit for less money.  We plead with the coach to let Johnny play with the older kids because we think he needs the challenge.  We compromise and give our teenagers an extra hour on their regular curfew this weekend because they made a 4.0 this semester.

If we are so inclined to negotiate with toddlers and teenagers, then why are we  afraid to do so within Corporate America? 

  • In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • When asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”
  • Women will pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car, which may help explain why 63 percent of Saturn car buyers are women.
  • Women are more pessimistic about the how much is available when they do negotiate and so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.
  • 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.

In my line of work, a successful negotiation can mean the difference between 500 kids getting a life-changing surgery, or being abandoned by their parents and society because they have a debilitating birth defect.  The difference between a cancer research study being funded within the next year, or it having to wait on other funding sources while the disease takes the lives of millions dependent upon new discoveries.  The difference between 1,500 people in an African village having access to clean drinking water, or them becoming inflicted with deadly, yet preventable diseases.

Women are 14-23% more successful when they are negotiating on behalf of someone else.  Since women account for over 70% of all fundraising professionals, we should use this success rate to “negotiate”, or raise funds for causes that need it the most.  Yes, women are still perceived as aggressive if we initiate a negotiation, while men are praised as go-getters for the same action.  We are perceived differently because we think differently, have different communication methods and are driven by different things. However, this doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t negotiate in the workplace.  Quite the contrary.  We should take a seat at the table, Lean In (if you will), and use our natural instincts as Life’s Great Negotiator when we step foot in the office.
You can find great negotiation tips and tactics from Margaret A. Neale, Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Co-director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders here at
Are you guilty of taking off your Great Negotiator cloak when you enter the boardroom?  Or do you wear it with pride?

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