Don’t Try To Fool Me Just Because I’m Female

New research says women are lied to and taken advantage of in negotiations more often than men simply because they’re women. 

Sit at the table. Smile. Act like a lady.

What have these tidbits of advice gotten women? You tell me.

No matter how much we educate ourselves, no matter how often we sit at the proverbial table, or how hard we lean in, we still get taken advantage of. That’s what a recent study by the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania reports.

The study addresses the increased likelihood of women being lied to during negotiations. One of the study’s authors, Laura Kray, said, “People are aware of stereotypes and use them to their advantage when they’re motivated to do so.”

I agree with this statement. I do believe that people are motivated to take advantage of those who exhibit certain behaviors. But let me offer some experiential observations that depict a slightly different story—and try dispel stereotypes by sharing doses of reality. 

In my personal experience, I hold the knowledge base of HVAC systems in our household. I know about air flow, refrigerant, and can change out a thermostat in 20 minutes flat.

I also happen to be the “closer” when it comes to automobile purchases in our family. This is because I’m the one who holds the clipboard with research on pricing and I speak up—adamantly and persistently—during negotiations. In other words, I go in prepared and I demand the seller’s attention.

When my husband and I were purchasing a van, the salesman was $100 above the price we wanted to pay. The salesman’s words, “I can’t believe you’re going to walk out of here over $100,” were countered by my words, “I don’t believe you’re going to let me.” We got our price, while the salesman groused about how little he was making on the deal.

One of my female friends often accompanied her father on his home renovation jobs when she was growing up. As a result, she knows her way around a home-reno job like nobody’s business. She said, “Often, I have contractors who explain things to me as if I’m completely clueless; I respond by letting them know they’re telling me stuff that’s clearly obvious…I’m sure sometimes I might come across as being a bit bitchy, but I don’t like to be talked down to.”

I have another female friend who comes from a family of electricians. She’s the first one I’d call with a question about wiring; and if I needed someone at the negotiation table, I’d choose her in a heartbeat.

And my female cousin came out of the Navy and has worked as a machinist for over 20 years.

As with all stereotypes, there’s something deeply disturbing about this study’s conclusion. Women have the skills, but what does all this get us if stereotypes continue to pervade our thinking? Stereotypes will consistently be our undoing if we don’t work to dispel them.

As the number of women who are heads-of-household increases, they are educating themselves about fields that used to be considered “men’s jobs.” We are becoming jacks-, or rather, jills-of-all-trades.

We don’t have to hold engineering degrees or work in the plumbing business to gain confidence in our negotiation skills. What we do need is to do our homework before entering into any negotiation—be it a house, car, or handbag. In other words, we need to be educated buyers and we need to use our Outdoor Voices when necessary.

Salespeople need to keep in mind that 70% of the U.S. GNP is made up of female-spending. If you talk down to us in the negotiation process, don’t be surprised when we take our dollars elsewhere. And if you think we’re clueless just because we have vaginas, be prepared to enter the Enlightenment Stage of your life.

As Helen Reddy sang in 1975, “I am Woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” Women shouldn’t have to roar to be heard. But we will if we have to, especially if we perceive deceit.

Melanie blogs at; she has a book to be published this fall The Female Assumption.

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