Issue 128 - 04 | Attacking Culture One Negotiation at a Time

By Deborah M. Kolb & Jessica L. Porter
Published April 15, 2015 8:00 a.m.
“It has come like a thunderbolt. Some of our most esteemed companies in the new economy woke up and discovered that their workforce was overwhelmingly male (70% at Google, for example) and it was difficult to find more than a handful of women at the top. These companies recognize this is a big problem, and they plan to do something serious to change it, at least if we go by the amount of resources devoted to remedying the imbalance. […]

These biases are not intentional, but instead arise from cultural assumptions and organizational practices that can inadvertently put women at a disadvantage. Since they are unintentional and often invisible, these biases can be hard to address. The first task is to identify them in your organization. There are certain places to look –unconscious bias in hiring and promotion, opportunity structures that channel women and men into different functions, conceptions that an ideal worker is available 24/7, among others. Once we’ve identified them, the next challenge how can we alter them. When individuals negotiate a change in practice they create what we call small wins. These small wins for individuals can aggregate and begin to chip away at institutional barriers.”

About Deborah M. Kolb & Jessica L. Porter | Deborah M. Kolb, PhD, is a foremost expert in the fields of negotiation, leadership, and gender issues, a sought-after speaker; and a highly-regarded author. Dr. Kolb is the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women in Leadership (Emerita) and founder of the Center for Gender in Organizations at Simmons College. She was former executive director and is currently co-director of the negotiations in the Workplace Project at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. For more, visit Jessica L. Porter has advised organizations worldwide, including many in the Fortune 500, on gender and leadership. For more, visit

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Turn Small Wins Into Big Gains
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A Woman's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success (Updated)
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