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Add this to your overflowing list of reasons why women just can’t win. According to a new study, it’s hard for women to get a fair shake because people just love lying to them during negotiations.
Conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania, the study recruited MBA students who played agents for either seller or buyers in a real estate transaction. Here’s how Jane Hu summarizes the findings in Slate:
Both men and women reported lying to women more often. Twenty-four percent of men said they lied to a female partner, while only 3 percent of men said they lied to a male partner. Women also lied to other women (17 percent), but they lied to men as well (11 percent).
What’s worse is that sellers’ agents favored male buyers, giving them inside information that was not offered to women: “In several instances, buyer’s agents revealed their client’s true intentions to men saying, ‘I’m not supposed to tell you this, but … ‘ “
Talk about a tilted playing field!
So why are people being so unfair to women from the get-go? Basically, because they feel they can. It comes down to gender stereotypes in which women are often perceived as being more gullible. Laura Kray, the lead author of the study, tells Slate: “When people perceive someone as low in competence and easily misled, they assume the person will not scrutinize lies, and that you can get away with [lying].”
I don’t like to use the term “victim,” but you do get the sense that people are out to trip women in any way possible. Maybe I shouldn’t take that personally, since all’s fair in love and business.
But what I do find jarring is that women are still buying (and now exploiting) the same sexist stereotype. I know older women tend to discriminate against their own (I cringe ever time my mother-in-law snips, “ugh—women drivers”) but it’s discouraging that even current MBA candidates have the same knee-jerk reaction.
To counter these biases, the study’s lead author suggests that women “signal their competence and confidence” by being “prepared, asking questions, and scrutinizing terms throughout the process.”
But the problem with those suggestions, says Hu in Slate, is that they can backfire:
The bigger challenge, says Hu, is getting rid of sexist stereotypes altogether: “And until we chip away at those, telling women to try harder won’t get us fair treatment.”
That might be true. But is “chip away” the only solution? We’ve been doing that for decades—and we’re still facing the same tired stereotypes.
Personally, I’d rather use a stick of dynamite.
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