Tag Archives: Jessica Bennett

Why do ambitious women have flat heads?

stolen ideaDon’t you hate it when you a male colleague says the exact SAME thing as you and gets zero pushback?  Even worse, when he gets credit for YOUR idea!

I don’t need to tell the ladies that this subtle (and not-so-subtle) sexism happens all the time.  It is beyond frustrating, as this guy found out when he switched email signatures with a female colleague for two weeks (via FairyGodBoss.com).  He said he

was in hell. Everything I asked or suggested was questioned. Clients I could do in my sleep were condescending. One asked if I was single.

[ed note: we’re guessing he means clients whose work he could do in his sleep.]

In this great TED talk, tech pioneer Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley says that ambitious women have flat heads from all of the pats placed on our pretty little heads by otherwise well-meaning but patronizing men.

She tells the story of how she got tired of the constant rejection and second-guessing, so began to sign her business correspondence with “Steve” instead of Stephanie and voilà.  Attitudes adjusted.

It costs companies big bucks to continually doubt and dismiss the ideas of their female employees (and account managers, advisors, directors…)

Just one of many examples I could give from my career in finance: I contracted for a company to advise them about an upcoming transaction.  I duly researched the options, assessed the risks and opportunities and presented my recommendations in a report.  Then they did nothing.

A month later the company proceeded to hire a Big 5 accounting firm who told them exactly what I had told them.  The (male) account manager at the Big 5 firm even told me that he didn’t know why they had been hired, as they had proposed the same conclusions with the same plan of execution as I had recommended four months earlier.

Then he chuckled and said “but we’ll take the fee!”  I knew their fee was 20x my fee for the same advice. I feel no shame in admitting I wanted to throttle him (& the company execs) at that moment.

You can bet this six-figure mistake is being repeated daily at firms far and wide.

What to do?

This article by Jessica Bennett (via goop.com) has some good strategies for dealing with common career underminers as

  • the Manterrupter (women are interrupted twice as often as men, even worse for women of colour),
  • the Bropropriator, and
  • the Womenemy.

For example: to deal with the Bropropriator (aka the guy who ends up with the credit for your idea), reclaim ownership of your great idea with the “thank & yank”.

You yank the credit back by thanking the person for liking your idea: “Thanks so much for picking up on my idea!”  A little public appreciation for him, original credit back to you.

Did you know we’ve put together a resource page full of helpful advice and strategies like these?  Check out Movin’ On Up here.   One of my faves for getting that raise: before beginning, remind them that being good at negotiation is a required skill for success in your role.  It makes them less likely to penalize you for negotiating (as research shows women are both less liked and penalized for negotiating salaries).

Unfortunately, it takes conscious thought and strategy to navigate these problems successfully.  Grinning and bearing it simply isn’t effective.

We hope these tactics are useful to you in your quest for equality at work.

To your success,

Melanie Love, CFA
Founder & CEO