Three Reasons Men Should Care About “Women’s Issues”

There are three reasons that men should care about the double bind, which happens when women are evaluated against a “masculine” style of leadership. Effective leaders have to take charge and take care, but women leaders trying to be bold and assertive can be labeled (by both both women and men) as unlikeable and bossy. On the other hand, when women leaders show their caring side, they may be perceived as “too soft.” The double bind is often seen as a “women’s issue,” but men should care as well about the impact of the unconscious bias that results from gender stereotyping.

#1. Be a “He for She”

First, men’s lives are deeply connected to the women that surround them: mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, partners, co-workers and leaders.  For professional and personal reasons, the females in men’s lives will likely experience the realities of the double bind. To be an effective “he for she”, men can educate themselves to recognize the causes and effects of the phenomenon. Accordingly, they can help the women in their lives analyze and strategize more effectively when the double bind impacts them.

#2. Change the Culture to Maximize Team Performance

Any person in a leadership position is focused on ways to create high-functioning teams and good outcomes for their institution. Men in leadership need to empower and embolden all the members of their teams and they are in a unique position to keep double bind consequences from hobbling the females from achieving their best performance. As the leader, by paying attention to and addressing the subtle (and not so subtle) ways women are diminished in the workplace, a male leader can start to help everyone understand the consequences of the double bind. He can also use quantitative data to help highlight and evaluate accomplishments so that “hunches” and vague characterizations do not hinder females. Imagine a conversation like this with two people, Bill and Anya, being reviewed for promotion.

Leader: Let’s review these candidates.

Commenter: I find Anya a bit abrasive, so I think Bill would be the right person to promote. He seems to get along with everyone.

Leader: Let’s talk about this. Does Anya’s behavior impact her performance? Her sales team has been performing really well – even better than Bill’s.

Commenter: That may be so, but she is abrupt and too direct. I just have more of a sense that Bill is the right fit and he is smart and aggressive.

Leader: Well, it seems to me that Anya has also been aggressive and smart. And it doesn’t make sense to me to overlook her accomplishments just because you may have a personality conflict with a woman who has been aggressive, but not with a man. I really think we should stick to the data we have on performance.

#3. Free Yourself

Finally, a male leader should care about the deeper sources of gender-bias dynamics because these forces also impact his life. The truth is, unconscious bias can impact anyone who does not fit the stereotype for the gender the person identifies with. Let’s face it, the “hyper masculine” stereotype (aggressive, relentlessly competitive, void of emotional expression) probably does not fit the majority of men in the real workplace even though television (think: Axelrod in Billions) and movies (think: Gekko in in Wallstreet) would have us think otherwise. If we feminize the expression of emotion and masculinize violence and power, everyone is trapped.

Entering a more enlightened and informed understanding of the double bind can help men in the workplace extend the framework to see where gender stereotypes actually might be holding they themselves back. It is critical that the double bind discussion not be seen as a male vs. female debate. Instead, we should be re-crafting the dialogue to understand how each of us can escape the traps created by gender bias.

(For an excellent discussion and many practical steps, I highly recommend a study called Anatomy of Change, by Catalyst researchers Sarah Dinolfo, Jeanine Prime, and Heather Foust-Cummings.) #IWD2017 #BeBoldforChange

Want to Win Your Next Negotiation? Ask a Simple Question

“Like going to the dentist.” That is the metaphor some women used to describe negotiating in a survey conducted by Linda Babcock, co-author of Women Don’t Ask. By contrast, men used metaphors like “winning a ballgame” to describe negotiation. If you fail to negotiate, studies show that over time you can leave as much as half a million dollars on the table.

There are a lot of great resources for learning how to negotiate – books, blogs, courses, workshops – so why aren’t women, as a group, negotiating effectively? Why are women are less comfortable than men in negotiating settings? Finally, is there a style that might fit women better?

Why women don’t ask

Gender stereotypes – one of those cognitive shortcuts we all use to navigate the world — create a dilemma for women who are in a negotiation situation. Women and men applying gender stereotypes expect females to be kind, collaborative and to serve as “connectors.” In other words: “Be nice and play nice.” But negotiation requires a woman to advocate and show strength, putting her in violation of her gender’s stereotype and risking being seen as “pushy” or “too aggressive.”

This leads to the dilemma: what style of negotiation can both feel right and avoid pushback from this double bind?

Just ask a question

Jacie Stivers is an ace negotiator — she started Commercial Investment Real Estate in 1983 with less than $500 of her own funding, eventually expanding it to one of the premier commercial real estate brokerage firms in the Space Coast of Florida, handling over $100M in closings. Jacie has developed a simple technique: ask a question.

Here’s how it works. In a negotiation situation, instead of making a demand, ask a series of questions. You will shift the pace of the conversation by putting the other side in the position of providing information. And, their answers will reveal important information about the precedents and boundaries guiding their offer.  The qualitative and quantitative things you learn will help you feel more confidence in presenting an offer of your own.

The “asking technique” has other advantages too. It is less pushy or self-serving because the approach is simply one of a polite, inquisitive, interested party who wants to fully understand the situation. How can you pull it off? Suppose you have are being offered a raise. Start by composing yourself to offer a demeanor of frank and well-intentioned curiosity. Then:

Step 1: Begin with a question that will provide the most important information you need from the other side for a counter offer.

  • Example:  “Where does this offer fall in the range of previous or current promotions given to similar individuals in this position?”

Step 2: In response to their answer, come up with another question to go a layer deeper.

  • Example: “I see, in the top 25%. What are the qualities or performance standards for those who received offers in the top 1%?

Step 3: Keep asking until you feel you can make a counter offer that fits.  Keep the tone in information-gathering mode.

  • Example: “I see, candidates in top 1% have 10 years of experience. Do you count just years of experience or does diversity of experience or level of responsibility factor into the calculation?”
  • Example: “To get to that top 1%, what have other candidates done to show their worthiness?”

Step 4: Summarize and counter offer, using the information you have gleaned.

  • Example: Thank you for answering my questions. It was really helpful to understand how the decision was made.  Here is how I understand the situation. This offer is near the high end of offers made. Those who got the highest end have about ten years of experience. I have been here 8 years, but in that process have much deeper experience than others because I have been dealing with assignments across the various functions of the firm. So I’d ask for that to be taken into consideration. You also mentioned that to be at the top requires that the candidate show exceptional promise – here is how I fit that… (from your preparation documenting your accomplishments). Using this logic takes me to a higher number than in your initial offer – such as $$$.

The counter offer is not based on aggressive behavior or self-promotion. Instead, it is built on logic and a series of answers from the other side. It takes practice, but whether you’re female or male, mastering the art of negotiation by asking questions is well worth the pay off.


Babcock, Linda, and Sara Laschever. Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Bowles, Hannah Riley, Linda Babcock, and Lei Lai. “Social Incentives for Gender Differences in the Propensity to Initiate Negotiations: Sometimes It Does Hurt to Ask.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 103, no. 1 (May 2007): 84–103.