It's time to eliminate the ‘B word’ at work
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Joan Toth
If the retail and consumer products industry wants to get serious about
advancing women leaders, we're going to have to get rid of the B word — bossy.
Too many of us — male and female — expect women be supportive
in the workplace and men to take charge. In our male-dominated workplace
cultures, men are rewarded for being assertive and speaking their minds. Women
are often are discouraged — even disparaged — for these same traits.
The result: Our businesses are not benefiting from the
collaborative, flexible leadership style of female leaders — a style valued by
Millennials and, as research by DDI,
& Co. and others has shown, brings real results.
When women are less confident and hesitate to demonstrate
leadership behaviors necessary to build their careers, it doesn't just hold
women back, it discourages male leaders from working outside corporate
America's outdated, less effective leadership style. Clinging to this old
leadership model hurts businesses, which rise or fall on well-led,
high-functioning teams comprised of the best talent available.
Ask yourself: Are some of the women you work with perceived
as "too nice" for leadership? Are women who do speak out considered "too
bossy” (or worse)? Research shows that women are judged by a double standard
and caught in a double bind. It’s a no-win situation — for everyone.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Many of this industry's
most successful companies are working to change their workplace cultures and increase
diversity in their leadership ranks. Retailers and consumer products companies are
recognizing that women's leadership is essential to their business and are advancing
high-potential talent to positions of more responsibility and greater
Still, these efforts to close the gender gap are often thwarted
by what three
female Harvard faculty call "a mismatch between how women are seen and
the qualities and experiences people tend to associate with leaders."
But the tide is changing. Maybe you've seen the popular
hashtag #banbossy, part of the Ban Bossy
movement launched in 2014 by LeanIn.Org and Girl Scouts USA.
Ban Bossy's mission is to eliminate the use of the word
"bossy" because of its negative effect on young women. The campaign encourages
girls to stop apologizing before they speak, challenge themselves and stop
doing everyone else's work — all great advice for women who want to advance
Ban Bossy also offers great tips for managers of women who
want to nurture a workplace where everyone can succeed. Here are five that hit
home for me:
back on the "likeability penalty." We've all heard it
around the office. A woman is described as "out for herself" or
"too aggressive." Ask the person using that language (and yourself) "Would
you say the same if she was a man?" My guess is the answer would be
"No." By the way, women are as likely as men to have a gender-biased
everyone to sit at the table and participate. Take note at your next
team meeting. Are men sitting in the front and center seats while women are
sitting around the edge? Are men doing most of the talking? Are women
interrupted more than men? If so, ask women directly to contribute to the
conversation, and when they do, call out their contributions by name.
women to negotiate. Men are much more likely than women to
negotiate for a raise or promotion because women fear being perceived
unfavorably. Make sure everyone on your team knows it's important to advocate
for themselves and ask for what they deserve.
the work equally. Most women find their careers stalled in
support roles, as promotions go to those — mostly men — who are given roles
with P&L responsibility. Are the women you work with turning down stretch
assignments because they are concerned about a heavy workload or work/life
balance or fear of failure? Try to understand why talented women may not be taking
positions that lead to bigger things.
and sponsor women. Women have a harder time than men finding
influential mentors and sponsors. Are you and the male leaders in your company
championing high-potential women or are the men choosing male protégés who
share the same interests and viewpoints?
Every manager can chip away at unconscious gender bias.
Stop using the word "bossy" and focus on a few other B words: the
benefits of diverse and inclusive teams and a better workplace and bottom line
Toth is past president and CEO of the Network
of Executive Women. This blog originally appeared in CSP Magazine.
Views expressed in blogs, posts and user
comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions
of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate