When you’ve applied for a job and receive an offer for the position you want, do you say, “Thank you so much. I look forward to working with you,” or do you start negotiating for better terms? Your answer might depend on whether you are male or female. Men tend to bargain and usually end up with a better deal than first offered, while women rarely do. Furthermore, women who do make a counter-offer tend to be perceived negatively.
For this reason, a number of cutting edge companies such as Reddit and Magoosh are instituting a ‘what you are offered is what you get’ policy. The only choice prospective employees have is to accept or reject the job offer; there is no opportunity for negotiation. In this way, they are hoping to make their companies more inviting to women.
I read about this policy change almost immediately after finishing Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. While I disagree completely with her thesis that a better world, “…would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” she does provide some fascinating observations, research and data. She makes a compelling case that it is harder for women to reach leadership positions in the corporate world and provides guidance for changes that would help achieve that goal.
Like all of us, Ms. Sandberg, who is Facebook’s chief operating officer, is shaped by her own personality and life experiences. She writes of her partnership with her husband, Dave Goldberg, (sadly, since writing the book she has been widowed) and wishes a similar relationship for other women. While a committed marriage between two high-powered and well-paid corporate executives with healthy and happy children might sound ideal to many impressionable young women, I think this is about as achievable on a mass level as the dreams of young boys who watch Michael Jordan play basketball and fantasize about an NBA career. Most women might like the results in the abstract, but they aren’t as naturally gifted or as keen on the hard work and trade-offs that achieving those results demand. Meanwhile, even fewer men than women fit into that picture.
As for women running half the world’s countries, I would gladly exchange Nancy Pelosi for a male who shared my vision of America. Voting for Hillary because she is a woman sounds bigoted and backwards, let alone foolish, to my ear. Too many liberals look only at color and body parts. Any conservative pundit who promotes Carly Fiorina because of her gender loses my respect as much as would anyone who opposes her for the same reason.
I think Sheryl Sandberg’s attempt at social engineering is quixotic. That in itself is fine, but the minute the government (including the United Nations) gets in the picture to help achieve her goal, it turns into something dangerous. When the government institutes tax incentives, or mandates quotas, day care and maternity/paternity policies, an idea becomes a fearsome cudgel. I’m intrigued by Reddit and Magoosh’s new hiring policy and curious to see how it plays out. I love the idea of individual companies innovating and experimenting. If a policy works, it helps the company thrive; if a policy doesn’t work, the results are evident and something different is tried. Unfortunately, with government, failed policies get expanded, entrenched and enhanced, piling one bad idea upon another. I personally don’t like to bargain, but I like even less being forced into someone else’s picture for an ideal world.