3 Negotiation Myths That Harm Women’s Careers in Procurement

Arm yourself not only with your negotiation skills, but also with the tools to dispel these three common negotiation myths

Look at any procurement job description – from the most junior to the most senior – and you’ll likely see the ‘ability to negotiate’ as an essential skill. 

And for women in procurement especially, the ability to negotiate effectively is not just beneficial when working with suppliers, but beneficial from a career perspective in general: after all, how will we increase the number of women in procurement leadership roles if women don’t negotiate? 

Regardless of where you feel your individual skill level is with negotiation, there are a number of harmful myths that continue to plague women in procurement when it comes to this critical trait. 

Here’s what these harmful myths look like: 

Myth 1: Women put others before themselves in negotiations 

Just like in many other aspects of our careers (and lives), stereotypes reign supreme when it comes to negotiation. 

And one harmful impact of this is that, in general, we, as women, are expected to negotiate outcomes that put the needs and considerations of others ahead of ourselves. 

In a supplier negotiation, what this might look like is an agreement on delivery and payment terms that might slightly favour the supplier, as opposed to those that strictly benefit a company. 

While, from a supplier relationship perspective, it’s always good to have an element of give and take, sometimes this unwritten expectation can feel contrary to the expectations of procurement in general – and from a company perspective, may not look like the best outcome. 

For this reason, a lot of us feel a little apprehensive about supplier negotiations, as it’s difficult to balance unwritten gender expectations with what best-practice from a company perspective might look like. 

Myth 2: Women ‘can’t win’ when it comes to career negotiations 

When it comes to career negotiations, we often feel like we’ve failed before we’ve really tried. 

This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that the procurement gender pay gap persists, and also the fact that women take on an uneven share of domestic duties, meaning they are more likely to want flexible work arrangements. 

When it comes to negotiating for equal pay and flexible working arrangements, many women in procurement feel like they are in a lose-lose situation: while many companies are moving towards equal pay for full-time roles, often there is a ‘flexibility penalty’ applied to part-time roles, or there are few career advancement prospects for such roles. 

Thus, we feel apprehensive about career negotiations, wondering if they are really worth it. 

Myth 3: Women’s negotiations will be met with backlash 

Related to the fact that people expect women to put others first in negotiations is the harmful myth that anytime a woman in procurement tries to negotiate, she’ll be met with backlash. 

This might be anything from subtle comments about her ‘assertiveness’ (not enough said in a positive way), to downright derogatory remarks about a woman negotiating in a ‘selfish’ and ‘difficult’ way. 

Due to a fear of backlash (both personal, and from a career perspective) many women in procurement approach negotiations tentatively, wondering what the fallout might be. 

How women in procurement can advocate for themselves – and for their companies 

The thing about myths – and more broadly, stereotypes – is that they exist for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be counteracted every single day. 

In order to counteract these harmful myths, you should: 

  • Regularly advocate for yourself using evidence. For example, instead of saying ‘I deserve a pay rise,’ say, ‘I have met all performance criteria and gone above and beyond in various ways. ‘ 
  • When negotiating with suppliers, explain why your request is appropriate and justified, and why it serves the interests of both parties. 
  • Think broadly about what can be negotiated (and how) when it comes to your career, including flexibility, pay, and other benefits. 
  • Consider techniques to work through fear and apprehension.

Myths and stereotypes are harmful and frustrating. But they can only be counteracted when each and every one of us takes action. 

Have you been harmed by negotiation myths? What have you done to overcome them? Let us know in the comments below.
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