Thursday, November 27

Are successful female mediators unlikeable businesswoman?

I am grateful to the many successful female mediators who read this blog and who I am lucky to count as friends and colleagues.

I wonder, if you are at the top of your game, do you ever feel your success at the mediation table has counted against you with mediation parties in what is often said to be a male dominated field?

Take a look at this article on juror reactions to successful female trial lawyers saying that research consistently finds that both males and females characterise woman who have been successful in male dominated fields as cold, unlikeable businesswoman... and if there are parallels I'd be interested in your thoughts.


Vickie Pynchon said...

Because mediation is not about ME in the same way litigation & trial often SEEMED to be, I find that my more . . . I suppose you might say . . . WOMANLY characteristics are a net benefit to the parties. Since we're generalizing here, I'd say that men are more likely to be competitive with other men & less likely to be competitive with women. This makes it easier for me as a mediator to get past men's defenses and since I'm engaged in the mediation of commercial litigation, more than 70% of the lawyers who hire me and the clients who hire them are men. In the 30% of cases that involve women attorneys and clients, I also find my femaleness a benefit because it is relatively easy to bond with other women over shared experiences; easier, I think, than for men to do the same. What I may lack in automatic power and authority (we're stereotyping here) I far make up for in my "natural" capacity to build bridges, focus the parties more on their similarities than their differences, recognize and defuse anger and then get down to the business at hand which is (the more stereotypically male task of) brainstorming commercial solutions to business problems. Thanks for raising the gender issues, Geoff. They exist and deserve everyone's respectful attention.

Mary Greenwood said...

Author of award-winning How To Negotiate Like A Pro and How To Mediate Like A Pro

Are Mediators Unlikeable Business Women?

The short answer is "no."

Of course, there are some stereotypes that women cannot mediate or negotiate as well as men: that women are not as aggressive, that women take things too personally, or that they are not taken seriously. when. As a woman mediator/ attorney myself, I don't believe these stereotypes are true.

Here is some advice I give to women mediators or negotiators:

1. Never Let Them See You Sweat
If you are nervous, upset, or unsure of yourself, you need to focus on what you hope to accomplish. If the other side sees weakness, they may try to bait you. When I am upset with the other side, instead of getting angry, I actually speak more softly and more slowly to get my message across. Mediation is like acting so never let them see you sweat!

2. Be Prepared
Like the Girls Scouts, women must be prepared. If women feel they are not taken seriously, they may have to work extra hard to do their research and be prepared. One cannot be over-prepared.

3. Look the Part
A woman should set the tone of the negotiation the moment she walks into the room. She must dress professionally and not have anything distracting like chunky jewellery or a quirky hairdo. During the election, Hillary Clinton’s and Sarah Palin’s suits, eye glasses, pantsuits, and hairdos were often of interest.

Afterthought: Many of my mediations have been online disputes with eBay buyers and sellers all over the world. I believe one reason I like this format so much is that it is so freeing. Generally I don't know the nationality, race, and sometimes sex of the parties so these stereotypes aren't a part of the mediation. There are no verbal cues, dirty looks or body language to interfere with the written word. Everything depends on the written word in an email

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