Growing Up: Making The Transition From Agreeable Girl To Woman Professional

By: Judith Devries, Director of Learning
Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

With Colleen Madden, Challenger Research Consultant

Dr. Lois Frankel explores this subject in her work Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office (Warner Books ISBN: 0446531324). In part, because of our upbringing and cultural expectations, women have an increasingly difficult time climbing the corporate ladder. While it might be gender bias – the good ol’ boys network with their “no girls allowed” signs – it’s important to investigate our own actions in the workplace and how we may be viewed because of them. Do we remain little girls at work or have we grown into women?

Socialization, as Frankel discusses, has created the typical female archetype: a charming, sweet, warm, caring, alluring girl (note the differentiation from woman). The backbone of a family, one who shies from controversy and confrontation, someone who supports a man in his success, but never realizes or even, in some more archaic convictions, desires her own. Girls at work, nodding in agreement, sitting in the back, soft-spoken and never intimidating, have little to offer at corporate meetings and most likely shouldn’t lead important projects. These sometimes long-held beliefs about women professionals, while offensive and degrading, still permeate the workplace, and in some cases, are actually facilitated by the actions of girls at work who really want to be women!

Frankel offers some examples of ways we sabotage ourselves. Using equivocating and weak expressions such as “Maybe we should…” or “Perhaps the path we should look into…” Girls in the workplace don’t assert themselves or own their ideas. Women do. Girls continually use their sexuality, flirting their way along, usually ending up where those with whom they flirt want them. Women present their ideas as professionals would: strongly, with conviction, backed up by producible evidence, not with a sweet sigh and a wink.

The glass ceiling, most unfortunately, still remains in many ways. Luckily, strong, successful women are breaking barriers and working to head Fortune 500 companies. More women are graduating college today than their male counterparts. More women are earning advanced degrees, but we’re still making less than said men. It’s easy to blame society and sexism, but at some point, we women must inspect and potentially change our own behaviors to break stereotypes. We cannot expect to be treated as respectable, strong, intelligent women, if we’re acting like girls.

Read an excerpt from Dr. Frankel and her tips on how to move forward here.

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