Women are nitro-glycerin. Instead of a delicate, effortless volley back and forth, women tend to stop the game and demand to know why the match started in the first place. They can be their own worst enemy. I think most men would agree when I say that women are generally overly sensitive and moody. These types of feelings and emotions can bring down a nation or start a war. Would a woman expect a general in the military to nicely ask everyone to come to attention or for Jack Welch to give a directive and then offer to hug it out?
I recently attended a Lean In Women’s Empowerment Networking Circle birthed by Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” and I was disappointed. As women stood around with cocktails in hand (it was happy hour), the basic questions were tossed out…”what’s your name?” (I quickly turned to make the oversized name tag resting on my oversized boob more visible), “what do you do?” and “where do you work?”…blah, blah, blah. This went on for at least 20 minutes and then the stories began about delays in climbing the corporate ladder, family and childcare concerns, and personal issues. My head was spinning and it wasn’t from the wine.
As I watched the mannerisms and body language of the women, I could see why some of them hit certain walls and plateaus. Confidence and entitlement did not ooze from their tiny pores. One woman stood up to provide testimony and she ran her fingers through her hair so many times that I lost count and forgot what she said. Another woman discussed her smooth ascension up the ladder due in part to a mentorship/sponsorship from a male who took her under his wing. Most openly agreed that in order to succeed, you needed to pick the right partner. Hi-fives were in the air at that point. Hello?? This isn’t an epiphany. Stop acting as if you just had a lightbulb moment. The women sat in the audience waiting with bated breath meanwhile smacking on heavy carbs and fried foods as the panel chatted.
There’s nothing wrong with learning valuable skills to jump hurdles and navigate board room etiquette but if you’re a wallflower and scared to play with the big boys, then you will remain just where you are. Don’t cry about it. Don’t go running to your other co-workers and complain. Don’t make the workplace a miserable existence for the female boss who you report to that knew how to handle herself. Pull up your garter belt and gracefully walk in the arena with the gladiators. Slay the lions by taking whatever classes you need. Ask the boss to lunch. Completely eliminate the socializing with the other gossipers. The senior staff pays attention!! Dress as if you want the lead role and practice your social graces. I can’t tell you how many times I have been embarrassed on business lunches. Write it on your hand if you can’t remember that mouths should be closed, elbows off the table, and PLEASE tear the bread before adding butter (although you shouldn’t be eating that anyway!!). Stack the odds in your favor and claim your position. It doesn’t take the publishing of Sheryl Sandberg’s book to ignite the flame. The fire has been simmering for years but it turns into an inferno for those of us who can tolerate the heat.Remember – don’t be a sheep and flock to the herds of followers who drink from the trough of Kool-Aid. Learn from someone who stood in your stilettos (add this to your sticky note – make sure you invest in sexy stilettos; they do amazingly wondrous things to your legs). Career wise, how can I relate to a woman who never had children? We made different choices. How can I relate to a woman who has been with a company for 15-20 years and feels she earned a promotion simply because of tenure yet lacks multiple degrees? I can’t understand that kind of thinking. Make your own goals. Blaze your own trails. Stroll your catwalk and be stylish while you do it. Now that’s dripping sexy…