Act Like a Man to Be Taken Seriously at Work? Seriously?

Cynthia Dermody
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workers in conference roomForbes recently devoted two web pages to an advice piece that discussed common body language mistakes women make that may be holding them back from a successful career. The PhD who wrote it could have saved herself a lot of time and Forbes could have reallocated some valuable real estate by summing up the whole thing in four words: Act like a man.

The author doesn't come out and say it, but the premise is that by acting feminine, our male counterparts won't take us seriously. We'll be seen as weak and submissive, and miss our shot at the big promotion. I don't disagree with a few of her points, but I take issue with the overall gist that naturally feminine qualities point to weakness.

Maybe they do ... but that's where this goes all wrong, in the perception of what they mean, in the labels they are assigned. By the force of nature, there are just certain behaviors that distinguish the sexes, and thank goodness, because I never mastered the art of spitting.

From the Forbes post, here are some of the terrible feminine things that I and other women in business do all the time, to help explain why I will never be the CEO:

Acting girlish

(Women are viewed as much less powerful when they pacify their stress with girlish behaviors, including twirling hair, playing with jewelry, or biting a finger.)

She calls it "girlish" but I call it a thinking technique. I do it all the time. It helps me focus on an idea. Besides, men connect the physical and mental all the time; some of the best business deals are sealed on the golf course. And men fidget just as much, but cracking your knuckles can be noisy and may interrupt the important meeting. Oh, wait! We're supposed to do that ....

Waiting your turn

(In negotiations, men talk more than women and interrupt more frequently.)

In other words, we need to be a lot more rude and unmannerly. Butt in to conversations frequently. Dominate the discussion. That's not too annoying, nope, not at all.

Excessive smiling

(Women should be aware that, when excessive or inappropriate, smiling can also be confusing and a credibility robber, such as when discussing a serious subject, expressing anger, or giving negative feedback.)

Smiling confusing? Who smiles when discussing something serious or giving negative feedback? Nobody I know. That's not a woman-specific trait -- that's a man or a woman whose facial muscles don't operate properly.

Nodding too much

(When a man nods, it means he agrees. When a woman nods, it means she agrees -- or is listening to, empathizing with, or encouraging the speaker to continue. This excessive head nodding can make females look like a bobble-head doll.)

Silly me, I always thought empathy was a good trait to have, and that the world would be a much better place if women were in charge. I like nodding because it tells me that I still have that person's attention. It's refreshing and puts me at ease. Never once has someone appeared to look like a bobble-head doll to me.

This is one of the problems I have with modern feminism. It's not at all about voting rights, raising awareness, or oppression, but about trying to turn women into men rather than celebrating and embracing all the wonderful distinctions between the two sexes. The problem isn't what women do, but in the people who've labeled how women have been acting naturally for centuries a certain way.

I've had both types of women bosses -- the kind that "puts on" all these male traits and those who just act like, oh, I don't know, themselves. Some of them have even been known to twirl their hair in public from time to time. Guess which one has earned my respect more?

Find more of the biggest body image mistakes women make at Forbes.

 

Image via Kommando Kraus/Flickr

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