Women have had to deal with the double-bind or “backlash effect” in business for decades and it has frequently been the topic of many discussions about how women can overcome this prejudice to advance their careers.
In a nutshell, this double-bind is:
To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype.
Now, there is a new study from Stanford Graduate School of Business that shows:
In the business world, women who are aggressive, assertive, and confident but who can turn these traits on and off, depending on the social circumstances, get more promotions than either men or other women.
The research suggests that for women to be successful they must simultaneously present themselves as self–confident and dominant while tempering these qualities with displays of communal characteristics.
Women who had more masculine traits (defined as aggressive, assertive, and confident) AND who could temper their behavior (self-monitor their behavior) depending on social circumstances, were actually more successful than either men or other women.
The key is to learn how to self-monitor your behavior. It is still vitally important to assert yourself confidently in the business environment. If you want to advance your career, you need to establish visibility and credibility for yourself. People associate competence with confidence so the more confident you are, the more others will perceive you as competent.
“There is no evidence that ‘acting like a lady’ does anything except make women more well liked,” O’Neill said. “Women with ultra–feminine traits, in fact, are still seen as less competent in traditional managerial settings.”
That being said, it is also important to know when to listen, acknowledge others, and work and empower your team. When your behavior comes across as too self-serving, you will get that “backlash effect”.
“The interesting thing here is that being able to regulate one’=’s masculine behavior does not simply put women on par with men, it gives them even more of an advantage,” notes O’Neill. “This shows that for women who do want success at the managerial level, the paths are there.”
This is certainly encouraging news. Yet I find that learning to assert oneself appropriately in the work place, still remains an issue for many women.
What are your thoughts about the double-bind?
Did you know that if you use an Apple computer, you may actually be more creative because the Apple brand stands for creativity?
Did you know that using a generic cell phone battery can make you feel less attractive than a name brand?
Honestly, I had no idea any of this was true. So I was very surprised when I read this article by Heidi Grant Halvorsan in Huffington Post this week about how our use of certain brands can have an impact on our behavior and self-esteem.
I have always thought that when we have a strong foundation of core values, our self-esteem is less influenced by external factors. A strong sense of self is like our rudder in a storm; always keeping us on track and focused. The studies cited in this article, however, demonstrate that we can be easily distracted and set off course by simply using generic versus well-known trusted brands.
Most of us assume that this sort of thing stops in childhood — when being given the less expensive version of the toy, sneakers or designer jeans you really wanted is a source of embarrassment as well as disappointment. These studies suggest that as adults we continue to unconsciously see our own worth to some extent as a function of whether or not we buy, or are given, the “good version” of the products we use.
What do you think? Do you feel more attractive wearing designer clothes? I know this was definitely true for me at one point in time. My wardrobe contributed to my sense of accomplishment and I admit I probably felt more attractive. Now I feel better if I find a bargain and save money. The savings makes me feel better about myself.
What’s the message here? Should I now coach all my clients to buy only the best recognized brands if they want to increase their self-esteem? If they want to be creative, do they need to buy an Apple computer? Are we really that easily influenced or is it because we don’t have a strong sense of self and self-worth that we can be swayed by such seemingly shallow actions? Or is it that these products have done such an amazing job convincing us that their brand will change our lives for the better?
I’m really not sure that we need to buy the most expensive and the “best version” of every products to feel better about ourselves. Maybe just being aware of the impact that advertising has on us is enough.
What are your thoughts? How strong is your sense of self-worth connected to the products you purchase?
Is it possible to discover and connect with your own values regardless of the brands you use?
I think parenting is the most difficult role we have as adults. Sure, we might have tough decisions to make about our careers, our relationships, our lifestyle. But nothing compares to the anxiety we have about raising our children. We want the best for our children. We want our children to be happy and successful and there is no clear road map on how to accomplish this.
I read an interesting article by Lisa Gottlieb in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. What was of particular interest to me in her article was how we, as parents, try to provide the perfectly happy childhood for our children and actually make it harder for them to grow up. In fact, Gottlieb says that in our efforts to boost our children’s self-esteem, we are actually causing more anxiety and depression and lower self-esteem.
How does this happen? According to the author and her quoted experts, we give our children an inflated view of their specialness. We are constantly telling them how special and talented they are because we live in a culture where everyone wins and gets a trophy. Our goal is to have happy and self-confident children, and yet, we are protecting them from accurate feedback.
I was particularly interested in what the article says about how we affect our children’s self-image because I now coach many adults who want to advance their careers and promote themselves but seem to have lost their connection to their value and talent.
Could it be, in fact, that we were told as children how talented we were when we knew in our gut that this was not always accurate? Could it be that we received constant praise that we felt was not deserved? Perhaps we got the trophy for “Most Improved” soccer player because everyone had to get a trophy. Maybe at the time we were even a little embarrassed to get the trophy. We knew that we stunk at soccer so what was all the fuss about? In other words, we felt that the praise was unjustified and we didn’t really have the talent at all.
If everything becomes special, than nothing is special in the end.
The author says, “the irony is that measures of self-esteem are poor predictors of how content a person will be, especially if the self-esteem comes from constant accommodation and praise rather than earned accomplishment. “
The message here is that what we need to focus on for ourselves (and our children as well) is what truly makes us wonderful and unique. What have been our earned accomplishments (because we all have some!)? If we make false claims, our efforts at promoting ourselves will not be authentic and will backfire. We will lose our belief in ourselves and will, therefore, have difficulty communicating our value to others.
Think hypothetically about receiving a trophy you knew you didn’t deserve and how you would feel. Now shift gears and think about winning a trophy for your earned accomplishments and successes.
Every day every one of us deserves a trophy for something that we actually accomplished.
What was your trophy for today?
We now live in a transparent world. Our personal and professional stories reside on the internet and will remain there in perpetuity. Our resumes, our profiles, our photos, videos, testimonials will endure long after our lifetime.
It seems that everyone knows everything about you. But how well do you know yourself? Are you living an authentic life?
We all have core values that define the essence of who we are. Quite simply, mine are based on the importance I place on my family and friends and living an active, healthy lifestyle. Other important values are integrity, respect, good work ethic. Once I define my core values, I can ask myself how well does my life align with these values? For, in fact, to live an authentic life, I should make my decisions based on these values.
By example, I may have a choice to go kayaking with friends or stay at home and eat a big bowl of ice cream (mmmmm!) The choice that best aligns with my personal core values is kayaking with friends. If I choose to eat the ice cream instead, it would not align with the value I place on living an active healthy lifestyle. I might enjoy the ice cream, but probably wouldn’t feel very good about myself afterwards. That decision would not be in alignment with my core values; the essence of who I am.
Another example may be that you are asked to take a long business trip for your company and as a result, you will miss an important family event. You agree to go on the trip, but don’t feel good about yourself because you value your family more. (We are always faced with these types of decisions and in fact, we don’t always feel we have a choice).
The point is that in order to live an authentic life, our core values should drive all our actions and decisions. When our decisions are in alignment with these values, we are living an authentic life and feel good about ourselves.
So how do you stay on track? The first step is to identify your core values and write them down. When you are faced with tough decisions (this is unavoidable as we face them everyday), look at your list of values. Understand that you will feel the best about yourself when your decision aligns with your values. Understand also, that you may not always feel you can make the choice that is best aligned with your values. When this occurs, we are making sacrifices and don’t always feel good about ourselves as a result.
Your core values are not only the foundation of who you are, but also your best road map to living an authentic life; a life in which you feel great about yourself and your decisions.
This is a guest post by Lisa Bloom, author of The New York Times best-seller, Think: Straight Talk For Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World
I went to a dinner party at a friend’s home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.
Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, “Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”
But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.
What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere complement to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.
Hold that thought for just a moment.
This week ABC news reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America’s next top model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.
That’s why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.
“Maya,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “very nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.
“Hey, what are you reading?” I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I’m nuts for them. I let that show.
Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.
“I LOVE books,” I said. “Do you?”
Most kids do.
“YES,” she said. “And I can read them all by myself now!”
“Wow, amazing!” I said. And it is, for a five year old. You go on with your bad self, Maya.
“What’s your favorite book?” I asked.
“I’ll go get it! Can I read it to you?”
Purplicious was Maya’s pick and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word, about our heroine who loves pink but is tormented by a group of girls at school who only wear black. Alas, it was about girls and what they wore, and how their wardrobe choices defined their identities. But after Maya closed the final page, I steered the conversation to the deeper issues in the book: mean girls and peer pressure and not going along with the group. I told her my favorite color in the world is green, because I love nature, and she was down with that.
Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It’s surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I’m stubborn.
I told her that I’d just written a book, and that I hoped she’d write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we’d read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.
So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya’s perspective for at least that evening.
Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.
And let me know the response you get at www.Twitter.com/lisabloom.
Here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time.
© 2011 Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk For Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World
Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World, is an award-winning journalist, legal analyst, trial attorney, and the daughter of renowned women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred.
A daily fixture on American television for the last decade, Bloom is currently the CBS News legal analyst, appearing frequently on The Early Show and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, as well as the legal analyst for The Dr. Phil Show. Bloom appears regularly on CNN and HLN prime time shows such as Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell, The Joy Behar Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and The Situation Room. She has been featured on Oprah, Nightline, Today, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and many more, and she was a nightly panelist on The Insider throughout 2010. From 2001-2009, Bloom hosted her own daily, live, national show on Court TV, and she has guest-hosted Larry King Live, The Early Show, and Showbiz Tonight.
Bloom has written numerous popular and scholarly articles for the Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, the National Law Journal, CNN.com, the Daily Beast, and many more. She has also been profiled, featured, and quoted in hundreds of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Elle, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Variety.