Feminine Advocacy: How to Ask For and Get What You Want

Recently, I was invited to speak at the 2013 mSummit here in Vancouver BC, about “Feminine Advocacy” for savvy working 2013-11-16 12.55.34moms.  I was totally excited because the keynote speaker was Arlene Dickinson, co-star of Dragon’s Den, and I really wanted to meet her in person, get my dog-eared copy of her book Persuasion signed, and most of all to have my picture taken with Arlene!  How fun would that be – two red-heads!

Alas, the last part was not to be.

Although I sat a few feet from Arlene’s great shoes during her keynote talk, the luncheon ran late, and Arlene’s book signing and photo session ran directly opposite my own talk.  Not only did I miss my photo op with Arlene, many of those who signed up for my talk had to make a hard choice about what they wanted – and hey, I do not blame anyone who chose Arlene’s session.  In the end, my small audience was just perfect – they got what they wanted too.

Afterwards, I got to think about sharing my message on Feminine Advocacy beyond that talk.  Over the next few posts, I’m going to share the core of my talk: the 3 Feminine Advocacy Secrets to Asking For and Getting What You Want.

First, why “Feminine Advocacy?” And what is it, exactly?

Back in the dark ages when I was in law school (aka the 1980s), I studied Feminist Advocacy, which was, I dare say, a bit different than the subject I was being asked to speak about to a group of working moms in 2013.  And yet, perhaps in a way it wasn’t.

In the 1980s it took the feminist lens to shake up conventional, traditional and patriarchal thinking about what made for good advocacy in court, and what made a “female” lawyer effective (how we were described back then). A group of us women asked for this course to be created. We wanted to learn how to be in the world – how to be a good lawyer, and how to be women in a (still then) man’s profession.

Fast forward 25 years later, and women are still “leaning in” to claim leadership and our rightful place at the table.  The gender wage gap continues in Canada, even after 20 plus years of pay equity legislation federally and in most provinces and territories (except in BC, my current home K), and in the U.S. as well. Women aged 25 to 34 earned 78.3 cents for each dollar received by their male counterparts in 2010 (Conference Board of Canada).  The need for change continues.

“Feminine Advocacy” is also about how to be a woman in this modern world.  How to ask for, advocate for, what you want in your career, business and life.  The difference today is the depth and breadth of experience we now have with what makes for good leadership overall, as well as proven results in how gender differences enrich business outcomes and contribute to a stronger bottom-line, triple or otherwise.

Why “Advocacy”? In starting to prepare my talk for mSummit, I consulted dictionary.com and my own dictionary (the 10-pound behemoth Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary I’ve carted across Canada since undergrad English) for a formal definition of “advocacy”.  Here’s what I found:

Advocacy:  “The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, e.g. a cause, idea or policy.”  Or more simply à la Webster’s: “advocating”, which in turn is defined as “to plead on behalf or, or use persuasion in support of.”

Here’s the reality with advocacy.  It’s still only one side of the story. As great as your ability to persuade or plead is, the reality is that others do what they want to do, for their own reasons.  And they will be persuaded by you, or not, for their own reasons.

Another reality: advocacy works best when you have influenced another person to do something, think or believe something.  And influencing is most effective when you consider the needs of the other person. My definition of “Feminine Advocacy” incorporates the feminine need for connection, the natural inclination to “tend and befriend” in crisis.

Feminine Advocacy seeks to influence others towards what you want by considering how it works for them.  Let’s face it, if what you want doesn’t benefit them in some way that is valuable to them, why would they do it? Sure, you could try to control the situation, or try to force them to do it.  I think you already know how that will turn out. Especially in the long-term.

Advocacy is one of three essential skills in my Diamond Negotiation Model in the Art of Negotiation for Women VIP Program. Advocacy is about sharing your wants, needs, and objectives – what you want to achieve.  Inquiry is about being curious about the other person – their wants, needs, and objectives – what they want to achieve. Listening is the skill that bridges Inquiry and Advocacy.

Here’s the tricky thing for women. Advocating for yourself, asking for what you want, is something you are four times less likely than a man to do.  And there’s a lot of research now that backs this up, particular when it comes to salary. Research also shows when women are given the skills and tools, they negotiate just as well as men do on behalf of their company or someone else, but poorly on their own behalf; however, there was no difference in the results for men; i.e. their results were the same whether they negotiated for themselves or someone else.

So what’s the secret, then, besides acting as if you are advocating on behalf of someone else (hint: that’s a pretty great secret)?

I’ll reveal the mystery in upcoming posts.

Coming up Next: Feminine Advocacy Secret #1.