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When Women “Lean In” Hiring Managers Leave Them Out

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously argued in Lean In that women need to stand up for themselves in order to secure equality in the workplace. But what happens when leaning in backfires? Some women have found that negotiating their job offers puts them at risk of being sent away empty-handed.

What’s the Latest?

A fascinating article by Maria Konnikova called Lean Out: The Dangers for Women Who Negotiate is up right now at The New Yorker. The piece’s title references Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the buzzy 2013 book encouraging women to stand up for themselves in order to secure equality in the workplace. Konnikova opens her article by highlighting the story of a woman who “leaned in” only to be led right on out:

This spring, an aspiring professor—W, as she’s chosen to call herself in a blog post about the experience—attempted to negotiate her tenure-track job offer with the Nazareth College philosophy department… “I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others,” she acknowledged in her e-mail. “Let me know what you think.”

Nazareth didn’t hesitate to do just that: W wrote that the college promptly let her know that she was no longer welcome.

What’s the Big Idea?

Konnikova continues her piece by referencing studies and surveys stating discouraging facts about the risks facing women who choose to negotiate:

Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon University, found that only seven per cent of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while fifty-seven per cent of the men did so.

While Konnikova acknowledges that Sandberg might see self-sabotage in those statistics, she introduces a counter-argument based on the studies of Harvard senior lecturer Hannah Riley Bowles:

She’s repeatedly found evidence that our implicit gender perceptions mean that the advice that women stand up for themselves and assert their position strongly in negotiations may not have the intended effect. It may even backfire.

Take a look at Konnikova’s article and tell us what you think about the benefits and risks associated with leaning in.

Read more at The New Yorker

Photo credit: Africa Studio / Shutterstock


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