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by Catherine Mehrtens, Joana Matos, Björn Hofmann

Among its many other consequences, the Corona lockdown has also laid bare the continuing gender inequity in most Western societies. For even as we all huddle at home, women are urged to be content staying put to take care of the children and make sure that the men remain undisturbed in their home offices Zooming. While there are many reasons why this division of labor can arise, it is notable that it (still) often comes out this way. Weren´t we already further?

At Rational Games, we are often asked in our negotiation trainings about the role of gender: do men negotiate differently from women? And so, in answer to these questions and in light of recent developments, we are launching a new gender-specific negotiation training module, based on the latest research, but also on the empirical experience and the combined knowledge of our participants and trainers.

Three takeaways have emerged from our creative phase of course development:

1. Gender awareness goes for both women and men. 

Our aim in conducting workshops specializing on gender in negotiations is to properly identify the potential gender-triggers for both women and men all through the negotiation process, from preparation to contract conclusion. For self-awareness is the first prerequisite for controlling any internal response to those triggers. “Do I as a man respond differently to a woman making bold negotiation demands than I would to a man showing the same behavior?” “How do I as a woman act in a negotiation if my male negotiation partner is overly shy and seems surprisingly insecure?” Both women and men can profit from sharpening this self-awareness and thus manage to negotiate together more effectively towards a win-win solution.

2. We must build on the real-world experiences of our participants.

This means grounding any conclusions and recommendations we make in what our participants bring to us in terms of actual experience, in formal but also informal negotiations. What do we learn when we examine these situations specifically through the gender lens? In this way, we make our conversations more meaningful and also more relevant, while at the same time avoiding “Stammtisch” assertions: “All men do this, all women do that”. Or more specifically: “all men seem to lack empathy” and why is it that “all women fail to ask for more”. These stereotypes are the pitfall of any training, including that of gender.

3. Gender is only one of several determinants of a negotiation outcome.

And it is an important one, as the research confirms, one that certainly should not be ignored. Other factors, such as thoroughness of preparation, negotiation experience, self-confidence, creativity, empathy and listening skills or rhetorical fluency are perhaps equally important, and perhaps cross-related to gender.

Our study of the effects of gender on negotiation has been engrossing and enriching, and we look forward to discussing our results with our clients in our workshops. Certainly, we do not have all the answers, but good conversations with our participants will help unlock them. And with this sort of training, we hope to make an ambitious but still modest contribution towards greater gender equality, not only in boardroom negotiations, but also beyond, including in the context of family and job, and in our efforts to adjust to the current pandemic.

We look forward to working with our participants of all genders in these upcoming seminars.

Comments and feedback welcome!


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