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  • Writer's pictureBehind Her Brand

Women in Leadership Mastering Negotiation: Strategies and Examples

Written By: Behind Her Brand

Negotiation is a critical skill for any leader, and women leaders can benefit from mastering it to advance their careers, secure better deals, and foster more collaborative workplaces. This blog explores strategies women leaders can use to excel in negotiation, supported by real-world examples.

1. Preparation is Key

Effective negotiation begins long before the actual discussion. Preparation involves understanding your objectives, the interests of the other party, and the negotiation context.

Example: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is known for her meticulous preparation. When negotiating her compensation package, she researched industry standards, understood Facebook's financial health, and identified her unique contributions to the company. This preparation enabled her to negotiate a substantial and fair compensation package.


  • Research industry standards and the other party’s background.

  • Define your goals and alternatives if the negotiation doesn’t go as planned (BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

  • Prepare data and evidence to support your position.

2. Build Rapport

Building rapport with the other party can create a more positive negotiation environment. Establishing a connection can make it easier to understand each other’s perspectives and find mutually beneficial solutions.

Example: Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, emphasized the importance of relationships in negotiation. By building strong relationships with stakeholders, she was able to navigate complex negotiations regarding product lines and market expansions, ensuring that all parties felt understood and valued.


  • Take time to get to know the other party and their interests.

  • Use active listening to show empathy and understanding.

  • Find common ground to establish trust and cooperation.

3. Assertive Communication

Women leaders can sometimes face stereotypes that discourage assertiveness. However, being clear and assertive about your needs and expectations is crucial in negotiation.

Example: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, is known for her direct and assertive communication style. When negotiating with suppliers and labor unions, she clearly articulates her expectations and stands firm on critical issues, ensuring that her company's needs are met without compromising her values.


  • Use “I” statements to assert your position without sounding aggressive (e.g., “I need this project to be completed by the end of the month”).

  • Maintain a calm and composed demeanor.

  • Be clear and concise in your communication to avoid misunderstandings.

4. Focus on Win-Win Solutions

Negotiations are often perceived as zero-sum games, but the best outcomes usually involve win-win solutions where both parties feel satisfied.

Example: Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM, successfully negotiated numerous strategic partnerships that were mutually beneficial. By focusing on creating value for both IBM and its partners, she ensured long-term, sustainable relationships.


  • Identify mutual interests and explore options that benefit both sides.

  • Be open to creative solutions that address the needs of all parties involved.

  • Aim for agreements that foster long-term collaboration rather than short-term gains.

5. Leverage Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be a powerful tool in negotiation. Understanding and managing emotions, both yours and others, can lead to better outcomes.

Example: Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul, often leverages her high emotional intelligence in negotiations. By understanding the emotional drivers of her negotiation partners, she is able to navigate discussions more effectively and reach agreements that might otherwise be difficult to achieve.


  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues and emotions during negotiation.

  • Manage your own emotions to stay focused and composed.

  • Use empathy to understand the other party’s perspective and address their concerns.

6. Know Your Worth

One of the most important aspects of negotiation is knowing and asserting your value. Women leaders should be confident in their skills, experience, and contributions.

Example: Serena Williams, an acclaimed tennis player, has negotiated numerous endorsement deals throughout her career. By confidently asserting her value and leveraging her brand, she secures deals that reflect her worth and influence.


  • Highlight your achievements and unique contributions.

  • Be prepared to walk away if the offer doesn’t meet your worth.

  • Practice self-advocacy to build confidence in your negotiation skills.


Mastering negotiation is essential for women leaders to achieve their personal and professional goals. By preparing thoroughly, building rapport, communicating assertively, focusing on win-win solutions, leveraging emotional intelligence, and knowing their worth, women can navigate negotiations successfully.

Real-World Case Study

Case Study: Meg Whitman and Hewlett Packard

When Meg Whitman took over as CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP), the company was struggling. Through strategic negotiations with various stakeholders, including investors, employees, and suppliers, she was able to turn the company around. Whitman’s approach involved:

  • Preparation: She conducted a thorough analysis of HP’s financial situation and market position.

  • Building Rapport: Whitman engaged with employees at all levels, building trust and understanding their concerns.

  • Assertive Communication: She clearly communicated her vision and the tough decisions that needed to be made.

  • Win-Win Solutions: Whitman negotiated with suppliers for better terms and with employees for shared sacrifices and rewards.

  • Emotional Intelligence: She managed the emotions of stakeholders during the restructuring process, maintaining morale and commitment.

  • Knowing Her Worth: Whitman confidently asserted her leadership capabilities, ensuring stakeholders believed in her turnaround plan.

Through these strategies, Meg Whitman was able to navigate HP through a critical period, showcasing the power of effective negotiation for women leaders.

By following these strategies and learning from successful examples, women leaders can master negotiation, unlock new opportunities, and achieve greater success in their careers.

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