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Teaching Girls to Negotiate
One Badge Away from a Tipping Point
If you think it’s hard to resist buying Girl Scout cookies now, just wait.
Professor Linda Babcock, the James Walton Professor of Economics in the Heinz School, is working with the Girl Scouts on a pilot program to help girls learn negotiation. Babcock is the author (with Sara Laschever) of “Women Don’t Ask,” the highly regarded book that investigates why most women don’t negotiate.
“The ‘Reader’s Digest’ version is that women aren’t socialized to negotiate. Our society sees men who negotiate as ambitious and assertive, but women as pushy and aggressive,” says Babcock. “Women see the feedback and come to believe that negotiation involves more cost than gain.”
That matters. On the personal side, negotiation can positively affect everything from shared housework to the cost of a car (women pay up to $1,353 extra when they don’t negotiate). Professionally, a woman can lose more than $500,000 by age 60 if she doesn’t negotiate her first salary—and most women don’t.
Published in 2003, the book is still selling well, and Linda Babcock often speaks at conferences of professional women. “But,” she says, “I realized that the problem has its roots in childhood—so I wanted a way to reach young girls.”
She approached the Girl Scouts, because of their size (more than 6 million members), centralized organization, and emphasis on developing career skills. The Scouts loved the idea of helping girls learn to negotiate—and now Babcock and the Scouts are developing a “win-win badge” for Junior Girl Scouts ages 8-11.
The organization’s Trillium Council, which serves Western Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia and Maryland, will pilot the badge for a year starting this fall. If the pilot succeeds, the badge will be offered nationally.
Marcia Barber, CEO of the Trillium Council, says, “This is a natural ‘fit’ in every way. Negotiation is a valuable lifelong skill, professionally and personally, and it’s far better to learn it early. Our girls are excited about the new badge, and so are we.”(Continued …)