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April 30: ETC To Launch Online Game Designed To Teach Girls Negotiation Skills


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon's ETC To Launch Online Game
Designed To Teach Girls Negotiation Skills    

PITTSBURGH—If parents want their daughters to grow up to earn as much money as their sons, they need to teach their girls how to ask for things — in other words, how to negotiate. Girls who learn to ask for what they want at an early age could one day know how to negotiate important business decisions in the workplace, says Carnegie Mellon University Professor Linda Babcock.    

Screen ShotTo teach girls to ask for what they want, Babcock has teamed-up with Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) to build a collaborative online game that teaches negotiation skills to girls ages 7–12. The Flash-based game, "Reign of Aquaria: Negotiation Game," was created by the ETC's Solid Teamwork Equals P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S. (STEP) team and the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society (PROGRESS) at Carnegie Mellon's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. More information about the game, which is available for free, can be accessed at     

Babcock says the team chose the video game medium because they thought it would be a fun and engaging way for girls to learn these important skills. The team will implement the game in its "Win-Win" Girl Scout badge program, which uses training modules and role-play negotiation games to teach a wide range of skills that help young girls become more effective negotiators.     

"Our society teaches young girls to wait for things to be offered to them rather than ask for what they want," said Babcock, the James M. Walton Professor of Economics at the Heinz School. "This has serious financial implications for these girls as they get older and enter the workforce, so we are trying to combat that socialization by getting to girls early to teach them how to negotiate. And negotiation, like a foreign language, is best learned while you are young. Our game will be a fun way for girls to learn this skill," Babcock said.

The game focuses on three main ideas: turning negotiations into a collaborative problem-solving exercise, realizing best alternatives and recognizing opportunities for negotiation. The team will gauge the game's effectiveness with a metrics reporting system that will track each player's progress.     

"The goal of our project is to create an online environment where girls have the freedom to role play and learn new negotiation techniques," said ETC student Michelle Pun. "For example, instead of viewing negotiations as competitive and confrontational, we believe that negotiations can be a collaborative problem-solving exercise. By promoting a 'let's work this out together' attitude, we hope girls can overcome many of the common fears they have toward negotiations."

[Above right: A screen shot from "Reign of Aquaria," courtesy of the ETC.]