Women’s History Month–Negotiation Examples–Be as Prepared as Rosa Parks

To force myself to do a bit of scholarship outlining, I’ve decided to take advantage of Women’s History Month in March and post twice each week about female examples of negotiation expertise.  [Note the public commitment cause you know I’d bail before the end of the month otherwise!]  Here is my goal–I think that one of the problems in negotiation is that we only see male examples of excellence.  We consider Abraham Lincoln and getting his team together, or we look at FDR and his eloquence, or we examine business leaders (mostly men) or even biblical leaders (again, mostly men).  I hope to write more this summer [again more public commitments being made] about how women should and can be used as examples of negotiation excellence in the hopes that when we see these examples, we change the narrative about what negotiation looks like  and perhaps even reduce the backlash that some women still face when negotiating.  In my 8 posts, I’ll outline a little of a historic story and the negotiation skill that I think it demonstrates.  These will not necessarily be about women negotiating but rather how the skills they demonstrated are, in fact, negotiation skills.  And then I would love all of your feedback.  What do you think?  Did the story resonate?  Are there other women to consider for examples of this skill?  Stories I don’t know?  We only know what we know so crowdsourcing to make this a more comprehensive and diverse list is more than welcome.  I’ll end each time with a request for comments that you can post and/or email me directly!

For our first post, and a lovely segue from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, I want to focus on Rosa Parks.  Every schoolchild is taught about how Ms. Parks started the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give up her seat (to the point where kids now say “Rosa Parks” to save their seat at lunch tables.)  It’s a great story.  I think Ms. Parks should also be taught as a negotiation example for demonstrating the skill of preparation.   She had attended numerous NAACP meetings and was in leadership for over a decade before she acted, including as the secretary of the Montgomery Alabama chapter, she had organized voters, and she knew that the NAACP was looking for a plaintiff.  In her biography, she notes that while, yes, her feet were tired that day, her decision was the result of all of her preparation and forethought up to that day.  As she noted after attending a desegregation workshop in Tennessee the summer before her arrest, “I gained there the strength to persevere in my work for freedom not just for blacks, but for all oppressed people.”  She had learned the tools she would need. And Ms. Parks knew her team would back her.  She knew that civil rights leaders would be ready to go.  (And, as we know, her case led to a sustained boycott and a Supreme Court ruling that segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.)   So, as negotiation professors, could we use Rosa Parks as our example of preparation?  Of getting your ducks in a row before you act?  Does “be as prepared as Rosa Parks was” resonate with you?

Looking forward to comments and other suggestions for women who are well-prepared.  Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Women’s History Month–Negotiation Examples–Be as Prepared as Rosa Parks”

  1. This is all quite useful and will I am sure be well received. As far as Rosa, there is a backstory that points out that the “who” is important as well. Rosa was not the first, but the third who challenged the status quo. Both women were rejected because community leaders felt they would not gain support. Rosa Parks, had an impeccable character and strength, and became the person to carry the mission forward. I am not sure what negotiation lessons are present in the whole story, but in the area of community activism, and social justice, the “who” has a significant role.

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