Nice Girls Don't Get Ahead?
Is being 'nice' really bad for your career?
There was an article circulating on the internet over the last few weeks urging women to be less nice at work, and I thought to myself – blimey, work is a much better place when people are ‘nice’. Nice is not a bad thing, and kindness is a wonderful trait to have. Do we really want to create/perpetuate a ‘show me the money’ culture where the strongest stag wins?
I understand where it was coming from; I’ve even suggested something similar myself in the past: don’t rush up to make tea in meetings as it can undermine your credibility, stop sharing the credit for good work with everyone else and own your own successes type of thing. It’s pretty much received wisdom and if you were a woman looking to progress in business over the last few decades you had to pay some attention to this.
But I don’t like it.
For one men thing it does men a disservice presupposing that at work they are all selfish beings, pushing their way to the front with a win at all costs attitude, which we know they are not (not all of them anyway).
But primarily I’m fed up with it because once again it’s about ‘fixing the women’ to behave more like men, the dominant gender. The notional standard by which we are all measured, ‘kind, gentle’ men included.
Time for Change
I think we’ve grown beyond that, haven’t we? The research showing how having a better gender balance benefits businesses and society in general is predicated on the fact as women we bring something else, not that we ape particularly macho male behaviours. Women add something. And addingsomething doesn’t mean that we take something away from men. The end result just gets bigger and better.
Don’t Be Ashamed of your Femininity
It’s precisely because you are a female with female traits, that you bring something different but of equal value to the table. Yes, we may have to learn to let people know what that is, and some businesses and people have not quite caught up with the facts, but we can do it in a way that feels comfortable to us. If we are to succeed we need to feel comfortable in our own skin, with our own natures, and not feel apologetic because of who we are.
It’s one of the reasons I wrote Speak Up. I wanted to share with women some of the current research into gendered behaviour but then allow them time and space to reflect upon their own career path, using and understanding this knowledge, but not being hidebound by it. Of course, we need to raise our profile because no one gets promoted if no one knows about them, but we can do it our own way. A womanly way.
Be proud of who you are. Be the best version of you, not someone else’s ideal.