Tag Archives: Ask For It

“Because I asked” – John Feinstein offers a business and life success lesson

Women don’t ask.  They don’t ask for raises and promotions and better job opportunities.  They don’t ask for recognition for the good work they do.  They don’t ask for more help at home.  In other words, women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want.

Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide


There are some business and life lessons that are true “basics.”  They are so obvious, so clear, so “common-sense” sensical, that we wonder how in the world we don’t all learn them and practice them.  But, the fact is, many people don’t practice them.

Like this one:

You might get what you ask for.
You will likely never get what you don’t ask for.

That’s it.  Leann to ask.  And then, ask.  And when you do ask, then you might see doors opened, with more opportunity and more success and more relationships, and more…

I heard the truth of this again last week on Fresh Air, the wonderful interview program on NPR.  Guest host Dave Davies was interviewing John Feinstein about his new book, One on One: Behind the Scenes With the Greats in the Game.

In the interview, Feinstein told about the interview he got with John McEnroe, after a 5 set win over Bjorn Bjorg.  From the transcript:

DAVIES: You have some great stories in here about tennis. And one of them I liked was when you followed John McEnroe into the locker room at the U.S. Open, because he wasn’t talking to anybody. And this was an example of you find – just getting access that other people couldn’t get and it paying off. Tell us what happened.

FEINSTEIN: Well, more accurately, I think it was that I knew back in those days that I could go into the locker room. And because Barry Lorge, my colleague from the Washington Post, was writing a lead and I was doing the secondary story, the sidebar, I had a little more time. And John had come in, he’d just won the U.S. Open, he’d beaten Bjorn Borg in five sets. This was a few months after their historic five-set match at Wimbledon. And Borg had come back from two sets down to tie it at two sets apiece. And I’ll never forget sitting there in New York City, John McEnroe grew up less than five miles from the stadium in Flushing, and the entire crowd was on its feet cheering for Borg. And I couldn’t imagine what that felt like for McEnroe.

He goes on to describe this locker room interview – it is a great story!  And here’s the key lines in the interview:

A lot of times people have asked me, well, how did you get Knight to give you the access? How did you get this guy to give you the access? The answer almost always is because I asked. It’s really that simple.

John Feinstein

“Because I asked.  It’s really that simple.”  Yes, it is.


Listen to audio of the program here.
Read the transcript of the interview here.

Women Don’t Make More Because They Still Don’t Ask – And Then, When They Do, They Are Penalized For It

Women don’t ask.  They don’t ask for raises and promotions and better job opportunities.  They don’t ask for recognition for the good work they do.  They don’t ask for more help at home.  In other words, women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want.
Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide


This really is an amazingly difficult unfairness.  I presented the excellent book, Women Don’t Ask, back at the February, 2004 First Friday Book Synopsis.  My colleague Karl Krayer presented their next book, Ask For it, at the May, 2009 First Friday Book Synopsis.  The authors, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, have been pounding away at this simple truth:  women don’t make as much as men because they don’t ask for it.

And now, after championing this one simple truth, they have made another discovery:  women who do ask for it are penalized for asking – because it is not a “feminine trait” to aggressively ask.  So, not only do women have to start asking for more money, they have to learn to ask like a woman should ask.

Al of this was part of an excellent segment yesterday on All Things Considered.  (Read the transcript, and listen to the segment, here).

Linda Babcock

Here are some key excerpts:

In the face of a persistent gender pay gap, researchers and women’s advocates are focusing on one little-discussed part of the problem: Women simply don’t ask for more money.
“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime,” Linda Babcock says.

And so – just ask – right?  Not so fast:

Babcock showed people videos of men and women asking for a raise, following the exact same script. People liked the man’s style and said, ‘Yes, pay him more.’ But the woman?
“People found that to be way too aggressive,” Babcock says. “She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman’s career.”
To be clear, both men and women thought this way.
Women can justify the request by saying their team leader, for example, thought they should ask for a raise. Or they can convince the boss their negotiating skills are good for the company. The trick, Babcock says, is to conform to a feminine stereotype: appear friendly, warm and concerned for others above yourself.
“I gotta say, that was very depressing!” she says with a laugh.

Here’s the challenge.  If you are a woman, learn to ask for more (more money; more opportunities; more accounts; more of everything); then ask; but, ask while conforming to a feminine stereotype.

As I said – this is an amazingly difficult unfairness.

Women Still Don’t Ask

“FINALLY! I hear we’re all living in a women’s world now.”  So begins the Joanne Lippman article “The Mismeasure of Woman.” On the most e-mailed list at the New York Times for three days, this article states simply that all of the progress made by women may not be as much as people had thought.  I encourage you to click on the link and read the article.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

For the first time, women make up half the work force. The Shriver Report, out just last week, found that mothers are the major breadwinners in 40 percent of families. We have a female speaker of the House and a female secretary of state. Thirty-two women have served as governors. Thirty-eight have served as senators. Four out of eight Ivy League presidents are women.
Women do have a different culture from men. And that can give us some tremendous advantages. Women are built to withstand hardship and pain. (Anyone who has given birth knows what I’m talking about.) That’s a big benefit at a time like this, with the unemployment rate at 9.8 percent and rising.
Women define success differently; for some it may be a career, for others the ability to stay home with children. They also define themselves differently. I’m in the unfortunate position of witnessing many friends and colleagues laid off over the past year. But the women are less apt to fall apart — and this goes even for the primary breadwinners — because they are less likely to define themselves by their job in the first place.

But evidence is mounting that women have not found the flexibility and advancement that they had hoped for within the corporate world.   More and more have to carve out their own entrepreneurially driven companies to really get what they want.

But one specific that really struck me in the article was this:
We can begin by telling girls to have confidence in themselves, to not always feel the need to be the passive “good girl.” In my time as an editor, many, many men have come through my door asking for a raise or demanding a promotion. Guess how many women have ever asked me for a promotion?
I’ll tell you. Exactly … zero.

Women Still Don't Ask

Women Still Don't Ask

It is proof of the contention in the terrific book by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Here’s a quote from the book:

Women don’t ask.  They don’t ask for raises and promotions and better job opportunities.  They don’t ask for recognition for the good work they do.  They don’t ask for more help at home.  In other words, women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want.

I think the question is very much still an ongoing one – what do women need in the workplace? But this I think I know – as they figure it out, they need to learn to actually ask for what they want and need.


Ask For ItTo purchase my synopsis of Women Don’t Ask, with audio + handout), and to purchase the synopsis of their follow up book, Ask For It:  How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, presented by my colleague Karl Krayer, go to our companion web site 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Be bold – ask for what you want!

Cheryl offers: Our business, like so many others, has enjoyed the affects of the economy. You know I use the word “enjoyed” with a smile here.  We recently decided to sit back and look at our business activity to see what we noticed. It was pretty apparent. We weren’t asking for enough business. Now this is embarrassing to admit, since we both spent a fair amount of our careers in sales. It occurs to me how easily it is to slip into what I might call “complacency habits”.  A good economy helps you do that. We also reminded ourselves of the research in the book, “Women Don’t Ask” by Sarah Laschever and Linda Babcock. “Wanting things for oneself (like business deals if you are an entrepreneur) and doing whatever may be necessary to get those things-such as asking for them-often clashes with the social expectation that a woman will devote her attention to the needs of others and pay less attention to her own.”  As a result of this well spent time in contemplation, we began to proactively ASK different questions. Amazingly, business is emerging from conversations almost every day. Thank goodness. Now I wonder, “What else have I become complacent about that the new economy might help me remember?”

Sara adds:   Could be questions…could be courage.  When I read what Cheryl offered, I thought of Richard Carson’s, “Taming Your Gremlins.”   Carson helps explain the voice in my head.  You know the one, the one that says, “You should be happy with what you have” or “Don’t ask for too much, you probably aren’t worth it.”   For me, it that voice that what keeps me from asking for the business and following up aggressively.  Carson explains, “Your gremlin is the narrator in your head…he uses some of your past experiences to hypnotize you into forming and living your life in accordance with self-limiting and sometimes frightening generalizations about you.”  No wonder Carson calls it a gremlin!  But there’s hope!  The first step in stilling the voice is in becoming AWARE that it’s just a voice. Then bring in the courage.  The voice would hold us back.  Courage puts the voice in the background and action in the foreground.  Wondering how to make that happen?   Join us next week – we’ll talk about overcoming our own status quo!

Is Business Becoming a Woman’s World?

Here is a simple fact that we can all agree on — women have not always had an easy path moving up in a man’s world.  I remember the time that I was a guest for lunch in the Los Angeles Club (this was a few decades ago).  I was told to go up the stairs to the dining room, which I did. The dining room was small, and there were a few couples scattered around.  After a few minutes, I asked the host about meeting my party, and he informed me “that would be in the main dining room, up one more slight of stairs.”  So up I went, and discovered a huge dining room — filled with nothing but men.  Not a woman in sight.  Imagine being a woman competing in that climate!

But times, they are a changing.  Our audiences at the First Friday Book Synopsis are truly a mix of men and women.  (We do have a few other barriers to overcome — we’re not as diverse as we could be).  But women, at our event, and in all areas of business, present a clear and growing force.

Recently, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of Womenomics, wrote of this change in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Fixing the Economy? It’s Women’s Work. They wrote:

While the pinstripe crowd fixates on troubled assets, a stalled stimulus and mortgage remedies, it turns out that a more sure-fire financial fix is within our grasp — and has been for years. New research says a healthy dose of estrogen may be the key not only to our fiscal recovery, but also to economic strength worldwide.

And:  The numbers make a compelling case. The studies Ernst & Young rounded up show that women can make the difference between economic success and failure in the developing world, between good and bad decision-making in the industrialized world, and between profit and loss in the corporate world. Their conclusion: American companies would do well with more senior women.

Their point is not that women should get a fair shake, a true shot at actual equality (though they should).  Their point is something far more profound — things would be better, problems could actually be solved, the future could be brighter if women were allowed to speak their voices at the problem-solving tables of the world.

I have a hunch they are right.

Over the years, we have presented synopses of a number of excellent books at the First Friday Book Synopsis focused on women and business issues:  Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success That Women Need to Learn by Gail Evans;  Women Don’t Ask:  Negotiation and the Gender Divide and Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, both by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever; How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business Success by Margaret Heffernan; The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur by Mary Kay Ash, among others.  With our fellow bloggers Cheryl Jensen and Sare Smith, I will speak at our first (hopefully) of many events  focused on women and business.  (Read about the August 12 event here).

This I know.  Trying to solve problems, trying to succeed in business with men only is wrong, foolish, and under-resourced.  The future may not belong to women alone , but it certainly belongs to women and men equally, and together.

(Yes, we will be presenting a synopsis of Womenomics this fall at the First Friday Book Synopsis).

{To purchase our synopses of the books mentioneed above, and many other business books, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site}.

Business Books as Teaching Tools – On the Bandwagon!

I find increasing interest among professors in schools of business to use popular and professional business books as required and optional texts in their courses.   I have required Jim Collins’ Good-to-Great in my Human Behavior in Organizations course, and over the years, have required other books, and have had many students provide oral reports and written synopses of popular titles.  Some business professors have required students to purchase our recorded synopses from 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com

What role do these books play in a course?  First, they augment textbooks that are filled with principles, variables, and concepts with real-world applications and experiences that the authors share.  Second, they provide subjective viewpoints on issues that textbooks must treat in an objective manner.  Third, they provide depth with corporate and industry-specific treatments of topics that textbooks must only cover in a general sense. 

Consider some of the recent books at our First Friday Book Synopsis that are candidates for a business course.  Why not Ask For It in a Negotiation course?  How about Me to We for a Projects and Teams course?   Would you consider The World is Flat for a Global Business course?  If the course is entreprenurship, then Young Guns would be an excellent complement. 

No, these are not academic titles.   But that is exactly why they are so valuable in an academic course.  They are different.  They are written by and for professionals.   Remember that many students in business courses are already in business!  While they are students, they are also professionals.  This genre of literature is highly appropriate.

How refreshing it is when students do not “have” to read a book, but instead, “want” to read one.  There is a significant difference in drive, motivation, and intensity for the latter.  I don’t know too many people who look forward to reading a textbook.  But, put a best-seller in their hands, or a synopsis of the book in their headphones, and there is new light and a very different perspective. 

In the near future, I will host a forum on this site with several business professors to discuss this issue.  Look for the participants, along with the date and time in an upcoming e-mail.