Teaching Negotiation Skills to Girl Scouts
by Marnie Huff
March 2011 (updated through January 2015)

Want girls to grow up confident in their ability to negotiate a higher salary?  National Public Radio has reported that women still hesitate to ask for a raise. Workplace structures, practices and patterns of interaction can inadvertently disadvantage women, as noted in Deborah Kolb's article, "Negotiating in the Shadows of Organizations: Gender, Negotiation, and Change," 28 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Res. 241 (2013).

An idea for a special project involving women lawyers in Nashville began with a lunch meeting I organized in July 2009.  Well, . . . actually, it all began at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution spring conference in Seattle in 2007 when I heard Linda Babcock give a keynote speech . 

The Gender Pay Gap; Women Don’t Ask. In 2004, the median income of workers was $40,798 for males, but $31,223 for females.  This is partly explained by differences in education, work experience, occupation, average hours worked, parental status, and career aspirations.  But  these factors don’t completely explain income disparity between females and males. 

Linda Babcock, author of Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, found that women don’t ask for what they want - whether it's a promotion at work or division of responsibilities among family members at home.  Sometimes, they are penalized if they ask for a raise. 

Highly educated, motivated women are not immune from income disparities.  For example, a 2010 study reports that, among male and female MBA graduates, after controlling for variables other than gender, women graduates "were more likely than men to start their first post-MBA job at a lower level."  On average, women with MBAs in their first job were paid $4,600 less than men.  Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva, "Pipeline’s Broken Promise" (Catalyst February 2010).

The ABA Task Force on Gender Equity issued a guide for women lawyers, "What You Need to Know about Negotiating Compensation." But why not think about negotiation at a younger age?

LAW Partners with Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee.  I was inspired by Linda Babcock’s research and her practical response: designing the Girl Scouts’ Win-Win negotiation patch for girls ages 9-11.  After laying some groundwork with the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, I received wholehearted support from leaders of the Nashville-based Lawyers Association for Women (LAW).   

So on a Saturday morning in February 2011, ten volunteer women attorneys taught negotiation and had some fun with more than 30 Girl Scouts who earned the Win-Win patch.  Each girl learned to: 

1)  describe a dispute and define negotiation;
2)  think about what she really wants and why;
3)  decide whether to negotiate;
4)  develop and effectively present proof to support a position;
5)  ask the other person to explain what he or she wants;
6)  brainstorm ideas and weigh the pros and cons of various options;
7)  be respectful and listen carefully; and
8)  make fair trades to work toward a solution that benefits both sides. 

The girls shared ideas with us, including an insight for all of us - “practice makes progress,” and solutions to life’s daily dilemmas such as “who gets the TV remote.”  Midway through a negotiation exercise, one girl said, “If you don’t negotiate, you get ripped off!”  Another girl persuaded her group to give her $75,000 in play money in order to buy solar panels for her school.  And they learned about power in negotiation:  "It's hard to negotiate with your mom." 

We have repeated the Win/Win negotiation patch experience for Girl Scouts in March 2012, September 2013, and November 2014. What a great way to close the gender pay gap!
Lawyers Association for Women (LAW) founding member Marnie Huff spearheaded the collaboration between Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee and LAW to offer the Win-Win patch.  Huff owns Margaret Huff Mediation, providing dispute resolution services for businesses and organizations, including workplace conflict management training.  She advances win-win business solutions through alternative dispute resolution.

Copyright 2011-2015 Margaret M. Huff.  All rights reserved.

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