Equity is not just a nice to have, it is a must-have.
We are committed to inspiring and empowering women to lead difficult negotiations. As part of this commitment, we are excited to be launching the initiative ‘She’s the Negotiator’ as a part of our 2023 edition of the Negotiation Conference.
To celebrate, we sat down with Dr. Prof. Beth Fisher-Yoshida at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies who will be speaking at the 2023 Negotiation Conference as part of this new initiative. Beth is a Facilitator, Educator, Mediator and Executive Coach, who recently launched a new, practical book called New Stories, New Power: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiation, based on her research and experience coaching many professional women in the workplace.
Why is important to have diversity at the negotiation table?
I found in my own experience that when you have different ways of thinking at the table- it could be gender, it could be ethnic differences, it could be age differences- it's a different lens of looking at the world. And even though you think you've fully explored something; you've only fully explored something as far as you can do yourself with your own mindset.
However, diversity does not work well when there's no receptivity to it. If you're fearful or threatened by it, then a different perspective will shake your foundation. Of course, it’s just a natural tendency that we feel more comfortable with people who are more like us. But if you can relax and not take it as a threat and just say, wow, that's an interesting point of view. I'm wondering why you said what you said. I'm wondering where did you get that information or how did you get that perspective?
Enter that situation with curiosity to understand where it's coming from. It may be a bizarre idea, but maybe there's some element that stimulates some other way of thinking that can get you to abetter idea. It's kind of like the basic tenet of brainstorming.
Why do you think negotiation has always been a difficult subject for so many women?
When it comes to women, I think of gender as another kind of cultural orientation. And because of that, our social worlds create who we are in a lot of different ways. So our education and our families, our communities, our religious institutions, all of that, and society at large give us certain kinds of messaging about who we should be in the world, how we should be in the world, and so on.
All the influences we have from when we're younger and all the way through our lives create the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. And partly it's about how we're received, how we're perceived by other people, and how we perceive ourselves. And if those stories are not positive and are not constructive before you even enter a negotiation, you have already lost because you've primed yourself to do so.
How do you think women can reframe this inner narrative about negotiation?
Neurons that fire together, wire together. So, if you think about negotiation and you think about discomfort or fear, eventually, these feelings will wire together. However, that's a really inhibiting way of thinking. If we start to pair negotiation with effort or negotiation with trying or negotiation with preparation, it's a different framing.
It's not only about what I get from the negotiation, it's not only about the outcome, but it's the fact that I engaged. I was there. I was present, and I didn't run away. We're shifting things so I can say, wow, you know, I didn't get everything I wanted, but I advocated for myself.
And so you have to understand where you are, and then figure out how much you want to push or not in any situation. And I think part of it is developing your own skills, developing your own mindset, developing your own narrative, and then making a decision about what you want to do.
How do you think others can be allies in improving this diversity in negotiations?
Having somebody as a mentor, a role model, or an ally in an organizational context really makes a difference. Unfortunately, what happens with organizations these days is that a lot of people are paying attention to recruiting more diversity but they aren’t really thinking about what happens once they get in the door. There just isn't enough mentoring and coaching all the way through. So they hit that glass ceiling and naturally there's fallout.
It doesn't have to be another woman; it could be a man advocating or showing the way. In the end, organizations are politically organized, and you must understand how to read the room. We are also talking about relationship building because, what happens outside of the workplace, is where a lot of relationships are built.
Another pattern I see is that women and other underrepresented groups, make a suggestion in a meeting but it's not really heard or acknowledged. Then a man would say the same thing, maybe a little differently, and get a reaction. As an ally, you can give this person a voice by using the floor to give credit to the individual who originally shared the idea. This spirit of generosity, I think, goes a really long way.
What do you hope the world, and especially negotiation, will look like in the future?
I hope it's a little bit more focused on individual contributions and creating the space that allows that to happen. Not that you must continue to prove yourself more because you're a woman or prove yourself more because you're not the stereotypical image of what somebody expected somebody in that role to do or to be. So I just hope it's a more generous, more supportive kind of world because we are interconnected in so many ways, and there is an interdependence that we have to pay attention to. So showing up at a negotiation table in the future means that you are building on that interconnectedness. Even if you don't know each other, you are still citizens of the world together.
What is one piece of advice you would give women who are entering a negotiation, whether it is for a pay raise or discount from a supplier?
So the first thing I would say is go for it. I wouldn't say to go to the biggest, scariest negotiation first, but collect small wins that continue to build your confidence and build your skills, but definitely go for it.
Don't just go for it wildly though. Winging it is not a strategy. Go for it with preparation. Think about what do I really want from this negotiation. What would be the ideal outcome? What would be a satisfactory outcome?
And appreciate yourself for the fact that you prepped and that you showed up and you engaged. Whatever happens, it is all good because it's a steppingstone for the next stage!
At the Negotiation Conference we gather game-changing speakers to inspire and direct you to scale your negotiation expertise up!
More exciting speaker announcements are coming soon!
Learn more and register for the Negotiation Conference 2023: https://www.n-conference.com/conference/zurich