AAUW launches new season with talk on negotiating skills

Courtesy of Allyson Johnson
Tech Trek scholars from Crittenden, Blach and Egan middle schools attend the American Association of University Women’s Sept. 29 meeting. Andrea Freund from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business served as keynote speaker.

The American Association of University Women kicked off its membership year Sept. 29 at the Los Altos main library.

Andrea Freund, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, served as keynote speaker, addressing the topic “Getting More of What You Want.” She told the audience of mostly middle-school girls and their parents that women historically start off at a disadvantage in negotiation in the workplace because they tend to see the process as a battle, and are afraid of seeming greedy or “not nice.” In salary negotiation, Freund said, nearly 60% of men negotiated their starting salary, while less than 10% of women asked for more than what was initially offered.

According to Freund, there is great pressure on women to be agreeable, and researchers have shown that when women use the same tactics as men in negotiation, they are often perceived as demanding by male evaluators. But “if you don’t ask,” she pointed out, “how will others know what you want?”

Freund offered strategies for girls and women to use when negotiating that can help avoid the backlash.

First, she assured her audience, an employer is more willing to say “yes” to a request than a female employee might expect, especially if the employee provides some justification. Even a bad justification tends to lessen resistance.

Second, women are often viewed as natural conciliators and relationship-builders, Freund said. In negotiation, women can take advantage of the perception by presenting their asks as part of a solution to a problem. The negotiation then becomes a problem-solving discussion rather than a confrontation.

“You need to be strategic in how you ask, but you need to ask,” Freund advised.

In addition to Freund’s keynote address, the meeting featured short vignettes from the middle-school girls who received scholarships to attend AAUW’s Tech Trek Science Camp at Stanford over the summer.

While the girls agreed they enjoyed solving problems in forensics, engineering, marine biology and cybersecurity, they also were excited to share the experience with other girls interested in science and technology.

“I could mention the Pythagorean theorem without people rolling their eyes like I’m just a hot nerd,” one camper said.

Chelsey Nguyen and Farah Hodan, Foothill College graduates who were awarded fellowships to attend AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in Baltimore, spoke about their experiences at the conference, which included workshops on salary negotiation and special challenges for minority women in the workplace.

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