While the number of women holding positions on scientific advisory boards (SAB) is increasing, it may come as a surprise that those numbers are still low.
According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, although the proportion of women in industrial and academic science is on the rise—women make up 25 percent of tenured academics in science and engineering and more than 25 percent of industry scientists in research and development—when it comes to women serving on SABs, the numbers aren’t as positive. And, women are losing out because of it: membership on these boards is not without its advantages, including access to promising research, consulting opportunities, and monetary rewards.
A paper published last October by MIT Sloan Professor Fiona Murray, along with Toby Stuart at the University of California, Berkeley, and Waverly Ding at the University of Maryland in College Park, examined the gender gap in corporate SABs. As part of the study, they reviewed a national sample of 6,000 life scientists whose careers span more than 30 years. In addition, the group looked at all publicly available lists of U.S. biotech SABs, including about 500 companies.
How do you negotiate when you need to make a positive impression? The answer may depend on your gender.
In Sheryl Sandberg’s much discussed Lean In, the author describes research findings that women perceived as hard-charging types are liked less. She advises women to smile profusely during a negotiation, use the word “we” instead of “I,” and express appreciation to your bosses. Of course, Sandberg is aware of the contradictions implicit in these instructions, given the tenet of the book itself and adds, “No wonder women don’t negotiate.”
Her point is not lost on negotiation theorists who understand that for both genders there exists a tension between claiming value for oneself and being likeable in a conversation or negotiation. Women are assumed to be warm and relational, which might represent a barrier to advocating for themselves, whereas men are assumed to be competitive and thus less empathic in a conflict.
In “Making a Positive Impression in Negotiation: Gender Difference in Response to Impression Motivation” (Negotiation and Conflict Management Research), MIT Sloan Professor Jared Curhan and Jennifer R. Overbeck, of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, examined the ways in which impression motivation—the attempt to regulate other people’s impressions of oneself—affects a negotiator’s ability to claim value and to actually make a positive impression on his or her counterparts.