Friday, January 8, 2010

Women Need to Be More Like… Men?

One of the most interesting stories I came across in 2009 was of a man – a successful writer/freelancer/entrepreneur – who was in fact a woman.

In her – or is it his – revelation in December on Copyblogger James Chartrand tells a story of how she created a male identity for herself to make more money. She was struggling for work as a female and making next to nothing. Her strategy worked.

Wow. Go James!

But not every woman has the luxury of being able to change her identity. Most of us who work in Corporate America (for example) need to go to the office every now and then, meet with clients, be heard on conference calls.

Another blogger suggests that businesswomen who have been successful at breaking through the glass ceiling look like men. Brace yourself for his blog post.

Ahem… Really? Okay, I admit that many businesswomen have short hair (myself included), but isn’t it possible that women do that so that they can free up twenty minutes in their morning routines?

This week I ran across another column on this theme. Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman shares the results of a study on nonverbal communication that suggest body language and silent signals could be holding women back. Her study indicates that women who take a leadership role in an intellectual discussion, tend to elicit more negative nonverbal responses than their male peers. And when one person in the room sends a negative nonverbal signal, others in the room tend to follow. And it’s not just the other men in the room who follow.

Yes, this is real. I know because I have seen it in action. Heck, I have not only seen it, I have participated in it. Are we all partly responsible?

James Chartrand wrote in her column:

… if just a name and perception of gender creates such different levels of respect and income for a person, it says a lot more about the world than it does about me.

There is a lot of truth in that.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Colette - I don't think we need to be more like men. I think we need to market the value of our contributions so that both men and women will want what we have to offer. "James" changed her online persona when she was convincing people that she was a man. She became more assertive and confident, blogging and pursuing clients. She does state that she began to do better using her own name as well during that same time that she was marketing herself as "James" to the same clients. I wonder if she could have done as well if she had started a blog using her own name and a catchy branding strategy similar to "Men with Pens".

Colette said...

Anonymous, that's a good question. I do think the confidence factor has a direct correlation to success. Maybe just being anonymous helps too!

Anonymous said...

I think the outcomes of the 2008 Democratic primary and Republican VP nominee proved that, in fact as the author suggests, it DOES say more about the world than about the woman.

Nicola Morgan said...

Really interesting. Have just found you from my blog party - thanks so much for visiting! I like that your blog has something different from most writers' blogs that I know.

I'm so glad I've never had to work in a corporate environment. It wouldn't have suited me at all. Actually, I've been self-employed and working at home for all except 3 years of my adult life, and that DEFINITELY suits me!

Marisa Birns said...

Hello and lovely to meet you. I've stopped by from Nicola's blog party.

Just the other afternoon, I was listening to an NPR interview with Juliana Baggott who wrote a trilogy for young readers under a male pseudonym N.E. Bode.

She said that Publisher Weekly's list of best books for 2009 did not include a single woman, and this was clear and present prejudice.

She has also written that "if you want to be a great writer, be a man. If you can't be a man, write like one."

Depressing, if it remains so.

Colette said...

Marisa, thanks for the tidbit about Publisher's weekly. How sad that is.

Nicola, welcome! Lucky you having been spared from corporate life.

Megs - Scattered Bits said...

I sure hope that most of us can be female and successful. In fact :glances around at the office of the Fortune 50 company where she works:, it is possible. We have to be professional, not masculine.

Found you from the blog party. Will bookmark this site though. Your blog list itself commends you! (where were you when I hunted the web before? :sighs: )

Marsha Moore said...

Hi Colette,

Thanks for popping by my blog; I'm so glad I stopped by to visit yours and read your very interesting post! I worked in the corporate world for a short time, and most of my female bosses had short hair (I too have short hair...).

Not sure if I can make a conclusion based on such a small sample size, but there may well be something in it.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Interesting post and I love your niche here. Definitely will be following your blog. Nice to meet you!

Douglas Bruton said...

I agree with others commenting here... some interesting stuff here. And how's this for something to add to the debate: a couple of my stories were assessed recently. My name had been removed from the manuscripts. The judgement was that the stories had been written by a woman. Not sure how I feel about that. Should I be worried about my masculinity?

Will pop in here again now I have been here once (courtesy of Nicola's party).

best wishes


Kate Mascarenhas said...

Hello Colette - thanks for commenting on my blog earlier.

Your post here reminded me of an experience I had during my English masters. Everyone was asked to select 3 poems, written within the past two centuries, for inclusion in an anthology. I was one of only two people who selected any poems by women - even though all 30 of the students taking the class were female! I felt quite depressed that day...

Colette said...

Douglas, I guess that means you should use always use your name -- ha!

Marsha, it never occurred to me that we'd have to apologize for having short hair.

Karen and Meg -- terrific to meet you and thanks for coming!

Colette said...

Kate, thanks for sharing your story. That is soooo sad.

fairyhedgehog said...

This is fascinating reading. It's sad that an assertive woman is seen as a ball breaker whereas an assertive man is seen as a leader. We have made progress: when I was young, women weren't allowed leadership roles at all. Clearly there's still some way to go.

catdownunder said...

Prowling in from Nicola's party. I think I would hate to be a corporate cat!

Megs - Scattered Bits said...

I swear I commented on this post. :eyes blog comments suspiciously: Blogger likes to delete my comments then put them back when I comment again. We'll see if the other shows up.

If it doesn't...I can see the points, but it isn't true in all of the corporate environment. I work at Wellpoint, one of the top fifty on the Fortune 500, and women move ahead much more than women in the company at a lot of levels. It really is performance and professionalism based.

Followed from the party.

SF said...

Hi Colette, just stopping by from Nicola's too.

You would think we were past having to use male pseudonyms to get taken seriously! It is interesting how much someone's gender changes the way you read their work. If I'm reading a story, for some reason I always like to know if the author is the same gender as their main character. I just find it interesting whether a female author has managed a convincing male voice and vice versa.

Kate - I think it's very hard for women AND men to think outside the box when it comes to 'best of' etc. We're all more familiar with the works of men simply because they have dominated 'classic' literature for the last 200 years. Good on you for selecting some women for the mix!

Colette said...

Megs, (just to keep you sane) I'm quite sure I did see a post from you earlier.

SF, what an interesting question. I'd venture to guess that we see men taking a woman's voice more often than women taking a man's voice. Perhaps we should all try it.

Amanda Acton said...

It's rather sad that if women want to be in those high powered corporate positions, they have to push harder than the men. It's even worse when they have to "become" men!

Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

Kate Mascarenhas said...

SF - I wonder if it was more a case of unthinkingly following anthology trends, rather than having less familiarity with women's writing per se.

In theory this was a specialist audience, so they should have known better. I could understand ignorance of say 16th century poetry, where there is little study of female poets at undergraduate level. But I find it hard to believe they weren't familiar with Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti or the Brontes. These would not have been out of the box choices - they're not even outside the category of dead white westeners - but they just didn't appear.

Jean said...

This is a really interesting post. It just shows how far we still are from equality. Of course there have been improvements since the past that I can remember - sixties and seventies (UK) - but there is still a long way to go in changing attitudes and practices before we get justice for women.

Colette said...

Jean, I agree, there has been definite progress. I think what we see in the UK and the US is similar. For every 'glass ceiling' article I come across about women in the US I also see one from the UK.

Margaret Adams said...

Yes, I read that post over on Copyblogger, too.

I found it amazing.

Found your blog via Nicola Morgan's blog party, by the way.

Nice style and tone. Love the content, too.

Colette said...

Margaret, thanks for stopping by! Yes, as much as we work hard, and have made progress, when we look hard we see there is still more progress to be made.

Susan said...

I read some material years ago that provided me with a profound understanding of how men and women communicate, in the workplace and otherwise. The material came from training intended for executive boards. Essentially, they used a 'caveman' analogy. Women communicate about values -- lots of 'coulda, shoulda, wouldas' -- and do not allow anyone in their 'cave' who disagrees with those values. (They also usually don't allow other women in their cave.) Men, on the other hand, are bear hunters. They are focused on the bear and will work with their worst enemy to get the bear.
At first, I worked to change my obnoxious habit of 'coulda, shoulda, wouldas'. I realized that they were conversation stoppers in a mixed audience. I could at least keep my mouth shut. Unfortunately, I found out that this is not a trait that is easily changed. I can't handle liars. When a coworker lied to a customer over and over again, I felt defenseless because I was actually speechless. The coworker had been demonstrably proven wrong (by vendors) in front of our managers; unfortunately, neither of those managers attended the next meeting with the customer because they assumed the matter had been resolved. I knew he would lie again. And he did. This time I was prepared. I had invited my own bear hunter to the meeting to propose the solution we had agreed upon. When I was caught speechless again by the lie, my bear hunter jumped right in and settled the matter. That doesn't change the fact that liars will always catch me speechless. But it gave me some other options.
My relationships with male coworkers changed from that day forward. I got annoyed when the men took potty breaks near the end of meetings to make the decisions in the men's room -- to be brought back into the room to be presented to the women. Solving the essential dilemna -- how am I and they different? -- at least gave me enough clarity to notice where the decisions were being made.