From a partnership between Girl Scouts of the USA and LeanIn.org: “When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he is called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders.”
My experience at the Senior Level is that it is very difficult for a woman to win. She fits the expected “woman” personality of compassionate and collaborative, which is then often interpreted as “not able to make difficult decisions.” Or she is “too direct” or “aggressive” and not likeable enough. I’ve even heard some women called too “alpha.” For more research about the Catch-22 we find ourselves in and how to do something about it, see http://banbossy.com/manager-tips/
I don’t know if it will lead to the outcomes I want in a career that will likely last another 20+ years, but today I resolve to do what I believe a good leader does: set a vision, make decisions with both courage and compassion, get results, and use the guideposts of integrity and fairness to lead others. I’ll support other women and bring young women with me.
AND . . .I expect that members of both genders will be harder on me than they are on my male peers in leadership positions. I’ll look at all feedback given on written evaluations and in person as worthwhile. Some of it will lead to a behavior change on my part because I truly think it will make me more effective. I’ll also realize that some of it is based on bias. Decades of social science backs me on this one: “Men are expected to be assertive, confident, and opinionated, so we welcome their leadership. In contrast, women are expected to be kind, nurturing, and compassionate, so when they lead, they are going against our expectations. A man who makes a tough decision at work is often seen as decisive,while a woman who does the same may be seen as impulsive and brash.” (from GSUSA and LeanIn)
I believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce leads to better decisions, better outcomes for teams, better financial returns–and my work makes a difference for those girls that follow my lead. Go ahead, call it misguided (see LA Times article dated April 17 for this view). But I’m working to #banbossy.