Did you know that there was a time when women ruled the world? When the most revered figures were females: goddesses, empresses, and mothers?
But three thousand years ago, the vast majority of humanity abandoned goddesses for gods as our ancestors settled and developed agriculture, marking the end of direct female domination. Or perhaps not? Thanks to their formidable inner-strength and unflinching determination, women soon began to develop their own talents in order to get what they desired, be it a husband, a child, wealth, a house, and more.
Women intrinsically knew that achieving a goal was far more important than the path one takes to reach it.
Women understood that they should never let men feel they have lost face or have been manipulated.
Women inherently recognized that men need to believe they are responsible for their success in order to fully enjoy it. And women have always been aware that confrontation is not the way to victory (ultimately).
So how do these realizations translate in our world today? How does the modern woman thrive in today's macho business environment?
There are several ways to succeed. They might all be combined, or they can exist individually, making it fairly easy in the end to succeed in a macho world!
MyPrivateCoach/LeBootCamp conducted a survey where we asked 256 people (50/50 men to women ratio) if they agreed or disagreed to 6 specific statements, and the results are exciting! Indeed, the vast majority of women think they need to behave like men in order to be successful, whereas most men believe that what makes a woman successful is, in fact, her femininity!
Before sharing the results with you, I'd like to share how one of our participants, Rebecca, summed up the fine line that women tread when doing business in a macho world:
"If women are strong, they are ball busters, and if they show any weakness or softness, they are little girls trying to play in a man's world."
(1) Use feminine attributes (Men: 90% - Women: 25%)
Interestingly enough (and should I say, as expected), men and women are absolutely not in agreement on this statement. Little girls' education gives us some undeniable advantages to compete in a dominantly male group or company: better communication skills, better empathy with colleagues and clients, and most importantly, better cooperation and better understanding of the modus operandi of our workmates. We also have a physical way of expressing our femininity, which men believe we try to hide more often than we should.
This is even truer since the start of lawsuits against sexual harassment. However, businessmen are begging us: be yourself! You can dress professionally and in all your femininity without being provocative. Be a woman and be proud of it (keep in mind though, that a little pinch of perceived vulnerability won't hurt either). However, I do notice that many female executives and CEOs (still too rare) in the software, legal, banking and high-tech industries, wear rather conservative suits (usually pants) and short haircuts... something to think about! Is this the reason for their success? Or are they trying to avoid despising comments like: "I know how she climbed the ladder -- short skirt and sexy attitude."
(2) Talk about facts, not feelings (Men: 95% - Women: 30%)
Again, it all goes back to our childhood games, and women tend to give more weight to non-tangible elements than facts in a business relationship. While this attitude can be a great sales closing tool, more often than not, it will hamper our efforts in the day-to-day corporate world. Strive at not letting your emotions take over facts. Do not take things personally. When you foresee your feelings may prevent you from considering facts in a clear manner, or negotiating successfully, sit back, relax and reformulate your thoughts and ideas in a logical and rational way. Rather than saying: "I like this idea," try to (think, and) say: "This idea will work because of XYZ logical or marketing reason that we know about this audience." This works wonders in a male/female business relationship. If we look at what men and women think about this statement, we see an enormous gap! Almost all men agree that facts matter! Women don't seem to realize how much of a showstopper the "facts vs. emotions paradigm" is.
(3) Don't imitate male machismo (Men: 76% - Women: 20%)
Thriving in a high-profile executive job requires a "genetic" mutation: the development of thick skin (Men: 54% - Women: 89%) typical to men, to prevent direct attacks from hurting while still remaining soft so as not to hurt the male ego. The most effective female business leaders I have met don't try to imitate male machismo. They use some "feminine" attributes such as greater attention to interpersonal interaction, and a degree of approachability in order to lower people's defensiveness. But underlying this soft approach they remain focused on the bottom-line goals, express self-confidence, and succeed in achieving those goals without having the men around them feel that they have been manipulated or lost face. What's more, imitating is irritating. And, though men are not people readers in general, they can see through a bad imitation almost instantaneously.
(4) Be a warrior (Men: 25% - Women: 75%)
Let's not deny it: not giving in to male machismo does not mean we should be subdued to everything! Being a warrior, or developing a survivor's spirit helps a woman be more successful -- NO question about it. The only problem is that we are not wired to accurately identify rivals. We are not wired to be warriors; we have to work on becoming one. If you develop into a warrior yourself, think like a man and play his game. Since women have this great ability to adapt to nearly any situation, this should not be too tough. Paradoxically, this attitude will help you mingle better in situations where you are the only woman. But once you've found your place, remember to shift to a more feminine (and more efficient) attitude.
(5) Treat men as equal (Men: 60% - Women: 76%)
Stop thinking he is man, I am woman, there must be some difference. By brainwashing ourselves into thinking about differences, we focus on the wrong element and hinder our ability to succeed. Let's stop thinking about differences; when conducting business, let's believe in one species: Homo sapiens.
(6) Recognize when the game is over (Men: 82% - Women: 13%)
Harking on the past and broaching former incidents when in the heat of an argument, is a typically female habit. This attitude is particularly detrimental to our business success in a dominant male world. What happened five years ago, is over; no need to bring it to the (business) table anymore. I know it is a hard one; we are wired to react this way... but aren't we also wired to be extremely adaptive? ;-) Keep in mind that this wiring happens when we are very young. Little boys are taught to play war-oriented games and sports, which have a clear end. In contrast, little girls play with dolls and kitchen sets -- activities that have no real clear-cut ending; play that is more of a process rather than a timed game. The poll result for this one was very interesting, indicating that women do not consider this attitude as a showstopper when it comes to their success in the corporate world.
I bet that you have found yourself using (whether consciously or not) one or more of these key factors to success in a macho world, and likely discovered that it was not THAT easy or THAT straightforward.
Recapturing the former woman's glory, not to mention its social, religious and political power, is considered difficult, if not unattainable. But is it necessary? I don't subscribe to this point of view. In fact, I don't support allegation about gender struggle in general, as I have never believed that businessmen and businesswomen were doomed to be at odds.
The old dichotomy of black/white, man/woman, power/submission is long gone. In 2010, the "businesswoman homo sapien" species has evolved and is now a patent pending complex mix of 10% man, 2% warrior, 88% woman. I will leave the last words to one of the male participants in the survey, who is definitely not macho:
"The best way to succeed in a macho world is to make up your own rules, rather than compete with the macho element. The bottom line is that the macho thing may look formidable, but it's really not an effective business strategy; (in my opinion) it lacks subtlety..."
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