Acting Manly Doesn’t Help Female Bosses Get Ahead

Taken from here.


Last week a reader commented on our post about female bosses and their assistants not getting along. We talked about how research showed that one of the reasons tension forms is because female assistants feel that their female bosses try to act more manly in order to seem more powerful. According to one survey that showed almost 100% of female lawyer assistants prefer to have male bosses, one assistant said, “Female attorneys are either mean because they’re trying to be like their male counterparts or too nice/too emotional because they can’t handle the stress. Either way, their attitude/lack of maturity somehow involves you being a punching bag.” A Grindstone reader responded to the article and said, “Being a woman boss is just a lose-lose. If you’re too ‘male’ then men hate you!” We decided to explore this topic more and see if female bosses displaying more traditionally male characteristics hurts them rather than helps them.

A recent poll, discovered that 63% of women prefer a male boss. The survey was conducted among 2000 British women, and despite the fact that very few women are at the top, it seems that other women kind of like it that way. Female leaders also only make up about 3.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs which is just a little more than a 1% increase from seven years ago. The participants in the poll said that they felt “men were better decision makers,” and that female bosses tend “toward mood swings” and are more likely to “bring their personal problems to work.” Some women have decided that not only are they not going to bring their personal problems and emotional side to work but they are also going to try to display more manly characteristics because people think those qualities make them better leaders. We talked with a few women and men about whether they think this is a good strategy for women and why it happens:


Kari DePhillips, owner of The Content Factory, an online PR firm that specializes in social media marketing and web

content writing, told The Grindstone:


“I think women — especially women who are already in management positions– feel that struggle every day. There’s an option to be had here: do you play nice, or do you cut the B.S. and get to the point in an effort to be taken seriously? A lot of women are trying to toe some sort of line in between every day from 9 to 5. There’s still an Old Boy’s Club, and although the ladies are making progress we’ve still got a long way to go. I think the remnants of the OBC mentality has a lot to do with the bitchy/pushover false dichotomy, and it’s up to us as women in the workplace to actively stand up to those stereotypes.”


Laura Gates, Executive Coach and Culture Change Partner of Learning As Leadership, told The Grindstone a common issue that women feel is:


“I have to be as tough as they are, or they won’t take me seriously. The underlying egosystem issue is “I’m afraid if I’m vulnerable and say what I really feel in a meeting they’ll think I’m weak and unprofessional and my chances for advancement will be shot.” Solution: Sorry to break the news, but we are women. We have intuitive hunches and get emotional about things. These are not “inferior” qualities. These are gifts that can actually help us to be more effective if used with integrity. I have seen women let their guard down and say what they really felt in a meeting and change the entire energy of the room, all thanks to their vulnerability. Caveat: 90% of my clients are men, and I remind them that having intuitive hunches and getting emotional about things isn’t just a feminine trait. By bringing forth these attributes, which are more typically assigned to the “feminine”, they can be better leaders.


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