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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Samantha Miller’s curiosity led her to debunk more than 40 years of respected research.

Miller, a 20-year-old UF business management junior, was at a Florida Women in Business meeting when UF director of business communication Fiona Barnes said something that piqued Miller’s interest. Barnes referenced a study in the book "Women Don’t Ask." It claimed men are better negotiators than women. Miller was skeptical.

"I hadn’t had similar experiences, and I wanted to see if other students my age felt the same way," she said.

In hopes of conducting a study of her own, Miller contacted Jane Douglas, an associate business professor at UF. Douglas said she was impressed by Miller’s initiative.

Miller pulled specific articles from "Women Don’t Ask" to analyze, and she had even contacted the author of the study Barnes referenced.

"That’s the kind of thing you do if maybe you’re a very enterprising doctoral student," said Douglas. "Most people just don’t get that detail-oriented, so that was the first thing that really struck me."

Douglas said she and Miller initially looked at the original study and noticed discrepancies between the subjects from which the authors of the study collected data.

Miller, who is also currently working toward a master’s degree, designed the questionnaire used in the recent study.

"I cut her loose on it," said Douglas. "That’s how smart she was."

The last part of the questionnaire was posed as a reward. It told participants they would receive a Starbucks gift card and asked them the amount they wanted on it.

They looked at relationships between independent variables such as age, gender, highest reported income, confidence in negotiation and the amounts requested on the Starbucks cards, Douglas said.

Their results ultimately contradicted the findings of almost every study on negotiation since 1975, Douglas said. These studies claimed women didn’t make good negotiators because they don’t ask for what they want, or they’re afraid they’ll come off as pushy. Miller’s and Douglas’ study showed the opposite. Every woman, regardless of income, asked for something on the cards, while men with low incomes asked for nothing.

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"It just reaffirmed what I thought, and I think that it could help women see that it’s not a ‘he said, she said’ battle," Miller said. "It has more to do with...knowing your value and how to negotiate."

Both Miller and Douglas advocated for regular mock negotiation sessions in college classrooms to prepare students for salary negotiations. According to their study, someone can lose up to $1.2 million in a lifetime just from failure to negotiate an initial salary offer. But the notion that women don’t ask isn’t as valid as it once was, Douglas said.

"I think it has absolutely nothing to do with gender," Miller said. "I want people to start steering away from that."

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