Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Deborah M. Kolb, PhD ’81

Author, professor teaches about workplace negotiation.

When Deborah Kolb applied to PhD programs, she had a preschooler at home and a baby on the way. She chose MIT over Harvard, she says, because Sloan allowed her to enroll part time. The opportunity to make that choice influenced her subsequent career. Now a leading authority on gender and negotiation, she advises women—and men—on brokering the myriad small changes they need to succeed at work.

Kolb studied history and economics at Vassar and earned an MBA at the University of Colorado. While she was at Sloan, Lotte ­Bailyn, now a professor emerita, advised her to take her time on her ethnography of labor mediators—and she did. She won the first Zenon S. and Clotilde Zannetos Thesis Prize, and the MIT Press published her thesis under the title The Mediators.

Kolb taught leadership and negotiation for 29 years at Simmons College, where she heard about students’ experiences negotiating in the workplace. “Women face institutional challenges in the working world, and they need to constantly negotiate their way through policies and practices that appear neutral,” she says. For example, in academia it typically takes seven years to get tenure—and for many women, those years are the best time to start having children. When schools change their policies to give both women and men extra time off, however, men tend to use that time for more research, giving them an advantage. In 2000, she and a former student shed light on the phenomenon in The Shadow Negotiation, which was named one of that year’s 10 best books by Harvard Business Review.

This story is part of the November/December 2016 Issue of the MIT News magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Now retired from Simmons, Kolb is the co-director of the Negotiations in the Workplace Project at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. She leads seminars for corporations, like Google and Time Warner, that want to retain their best female leaders. She is also an in-demand workshop facilitator and speaker. A recent keynote was titled “Negotiating at Work: Small Wins to Big Gains.”

“We know that millennials are moving out of companies, often because they get asked to take on extra work,” she says. “We tell them, ‘Don’t opt out. Negotiate! Stay in situations that don’t look so promising.’ And when you negotiate for new opportunities and credit for extra work, you lay the path for people who come after.”

Kolb’s most recent book, Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains, was a Time.com best negotiation book of 2015. She and her husband, psychoanalyst Jonathan Kolb, live in Brookline and on Cape Cod, where they enjoy coaxing their hydrangeas to bloom.

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Print + All Access Digital.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.

MIT News = for alumni only.

Are you an MIT alum?
Sign in now to read all MIT alumni news and class notes— or to manage your magazine subscription.

Sign in and read on