Friday, February 8, 2013

Feminist Friday: Women of Power

In order for a woman to get to the top, and be successful at it, does she have to be a bitch? Or at least seem like one?

I know. This sounds a bit ridiculous. But, I think it's a valid question. The reason this came to mind for Feminist Friday today is that yesterday Tim and I were taking Piper on her first long walk ever (pause for aww!) because it was an unseasonably 55-60ish when I got home from work! We were talking about our respective bosses (both of whom are women) and how people from partnering organizations or other departments are intimidated by them. People who don't know them very well are almost scared of them, don't want to get on their "bad" side, and always ask questions like: "What is it like to work for her??"

It's funny to me because my boss did initially intimidate the crap out of me as an intern, but in reality she is far from a tyrant. Looking back at it, was it just because she was a woman with power whom others clearly respected that made me think she wasn't the type to crack a joke or agree that Channing Tatum is the sexiest man alive? Probably.

Do women need to become Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada to gain any respect as a female boss? Or do they need to seem like they are tough, insensitive, and unapproachable to establish their position? Aren't both options just as bad?

Would I still respect my boss if she was super chatty and overtly friendly with me from day one? I think so. But, somehow that wouldn't give her the air of power she has. So, I might not respect her professionally as much as I currently do. Getting to know her, though, I've learned that she IS kind, approachable, respects our opinions (and thoughts on her fashion sense) and will always agree with me when I mention how attractive that ESPN reporter was. (Disclaimer: The boss lady doesn't read this blog so I'm not writing this to suck up!)

I'm sharing this because I initially thought it was unfair that men can be a genuine "good guy" but also a well-respected boss. And I thought it wasn't fair that the woman at the top must be a fun-sucking workaholic. But, I can't just blame the men. Because I've stereotyped elite women as well.

Do you think this is an issue? How can women combat this image and still be successful? How can we make it to the top with integrity and gain respect without instilling fear in our employees?

Is this possible in today's world? Or are we all doomed to the lonely life of Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada?

(At least we'd have great shoes, right?)



  1. In my experience. All of the successful women I've worked with/for have had the 'Devil Wears Prada' rap. Some deserving - but some very undeserving. One of my past managers was AMAZING - I mean AMAZING - she was great at what she did, she was great at mentoring/teaching you and she was a GREAT manager to have - yet for some reason people were unbelievably intimidated by her.

    I think to a point its a certain jealousy factor. My field is primarily male - and to see a strong, successful woman - made them so on edge that somehow the 'negative rap' had to be created for them to feel better...

    I'm not trying to make this sound overly feminisht - I don't think all men are intimidated and 'old boys club' - but the ones at my previous company sure were.....

    Happy Friday!


  2. You need a thick skin to get to the top and you can not be overly nice. I think women have to be a little Miranda Priestly - like to get the respect and authority they need to do the job.
    You make a good poin in saying that the problem of stereotyping doesn't only lie with men. Women, me included, often have to find some kind of explanation why a women is in a leading position. And since there aren't too many women at the top, we have to label them somehow to feel better about ourselves. It's a very bad attitude and especially us women should change that. So next time we meet our new boss, and she's a women, let's try not to label her as an insensitive, unapproachable bitch.


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