Stanford Study: Act Like a Man To Get Ahead

A fascinating article was published in the NY Times yesterday: “The Myth of Male Decline” by Stephanie Coontz. Ms. Coontz cites countless facts and stats on how women are still grossly underpaid and under-represented in high levels of business and government, essentially where societal policies and ensuing change is instituted.

After reading this article, I was most struck by the absence of the reasons the majority of women opt out of big business and I assume big government:

  • By mid-career, most women value flexibility and intrinsic reward over the limits of a traditional staff position where they are dictated by their jobs how accessible they can be for their families. Secondly, many women crave a more internal satisfaction from their work by mid-career and are lured to opt out of their corporate career to pursue their own business or a creative endeavor.
  • Just because women now represent almost 40% of F/T workers in management but only 4% of the CEO’s in Fortune’s top 1,000 companies—doesn’t mean they are not as successful as their male counterparts who choose to stay in-house. Again, it’s all a matter of what success looks like for you. If that is being able to be home with your children part time and pursuing the rise of your own business (or not), then our hat is off to you. Think of the incredible role model you are serving as to all those around you.

Where my work comes into play is assisting the women who are mid career and who do want to continue on to executive roles, whether as part of a large corporation or within their own businesses. I am focusing my research and writing today on the particular skill set that these women need to intentionally develop to help them break through the stark glass ceiling.

To this point, a recent study released by Stanford Business School cites:

Women who display masculine traits, and know when not to, get more promotions than men states a recent study released by Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Do you agree? As a woman in business, were you aware that you are embodying your male counterpart’s traits: confidence, aggressiveness and assertiveness when you are jockeying on your or your teammate’s behalf?

Are we really so juxtaposed that women cannot be seen as self-possessed, highly aspirational, visionary strong leaders that we have to be referred to as possessing male traits to do so?
Many of my clients do report that they notice a sharp difference in the way that their male counterparts effortlessly yet persistently cite their accomplishments. In contrast, my clients note these reasons for not doing the same:

  • They think their ‘win’s’ should speak for themselves
  • They struggle with humility when they attempt to self-promote
  • It does not feel natural to be so self-touting

What do you think? Do you identify with these reasons for not acting more assertive and self confident when it comes to seeking a promotion, a salary increase or getting higher visibility projects? If so, what do you attribute this to—your gender or your personality?


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