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Do women really have to act like men to succeed in business?

Does working hard really go unnoticed unless you work on self-promotion at the same time? Have women been doing it wrong all this time, and if they have... Why?

Today is International Women’s day and as I come from a society with deeply rooted patriarchal values, I felt compelled, and perhaps inspired enough to put together my first post.  

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a wonderful piece of writing on LinkedIn Pulse, titled The surprising thing that’s holding young women back. While I cannot say I agree with the author’s conclusions 100%, it did get me thinking. 

Do women really have to act like men to succeed in business? Does working hard really go unnoticed unless you work on self-promotion at the same time? 

Have women been doing it wrong all this time? 

Well ladies, and gentlemen, the answer that comes to my mind is Yes and No. 

Yes. It is true that, among other things, men owe their high positions in the world of business to networking and maintaining connections inside and outside their companies. It is true that often they see their workplaces as playgrounds where rules can be bent and “under the radar” cheating is allowed. It is true that somehow men, more than women, have mastered the art of mingling and simply enjoy being in the spotlight. 

And, it is true that women in all parts of the world are being repeatedly overlooked in favor of their male counterparts. 

At this point, I probably could have come up with a biased, wild theory that would confirm that women indeed are the oppressed sex. However, I decided to retain an objective stance. 

So, I called up a couple of male friends of mine and asked them about the current, “battle of the sexes” situation at their work place. They seemed like perfect candidates for my little research, as they both work for huge international companies. 

The first one, let’s call him Mr. X, is employed as an account manager in an international shipping company. And he said… 

“OK, Mirjana, you do know my company employs thousands of people, right? Well, in all of my so far experience, the only high positions occupied by women have mostly been in HR. Women just don’t have the killer instinct when it comes to negotiating. They take everything too seriously, and often fail to see that business is like a game, where sometimes you are allowed to, and in fact encouraged, to make up your own rules. You know? Do whatever it takes to close that deal! After all, all is fair in love and war.” 

At that moment I could actually hear him wink at me and I admit I was a bit enraged. So, I called up the other friend, let’s call him Mr. Z. This guy, a former member of Special Forces, now working in a big international security company, also didn’t sugarcoat it for me… 

“LMAO Mira, of course women are the weaker sex!” 

But then, to my surprise and completely in his “straight to the point” manner he continued… 

“Look, the decision makers in my company, and I personally, couldn’t care less about the gender of our employees and potential candidates. As far as I am concerned you might as well be a tiny, female creature with a squeaky, obnoxious voice, but, if your experience and track record show that you are absolutely the best person for a job at hand, you are definitely hired and will have all the opportunity to advance in our company.” 

Wow, would you look at that? I admit I was a bit puzzled by their words. I was expecting quite the opposite answers from both of them. But, they did manage to shed some light over my dilemma. 

And I’ve come up with a couple of conclusions. 

1.  It really depends on the industry. In jobs where a bit more acting and bluffing is required, men usually take the lead, as Mr. X explained in his cocky manner. However, judging from Mr. Z’s answer, it’s not really about the killer instinct, as obviously women can be as tough as men. Furthermore, it is exactly in those situations, where more personal sacrifice is required, that women shine perhaps more than men. Security jobs simply might be parts of our nurturing, gender makeup. 

2. It does not matter which gender you belong to. If you are not seen doing your magic, all your accomplishments will go unnoticed. It’s like in that Kate & Leopold movie… 

“Don’t press the button ‘till she wakes up. So, she sees you doing it. If a man washes a dish and no one sees it… Did it happen?” 

In the same token, whatever type of pants you’re wearing it doesn’t matter. If your bosses and colleagues don’t see your little successes, they will remain forever hidden. And you can sulk all you want. 

Maybe that’s it. Maybe men are just a bit more evolutionarily predisposed to demonstrate their strengths. But girls, it’s not called evolution for no reason. Evolution means change. Evolution means progress! 

Personally, I cannot complain. I was lucky enough to land a job in AABCO where neither gender enjoys special treatment and where everyone is awarded in accordance with their efforts. Not counting its owners, the company employs 29 girls and 36 men as permanent staff. Among those 65 people, the girls occupy 10 managerial and 12 engineering positions, whilst the boys occupy 4 managerial and also 12 engineering positions, with the rest being technical staff. 

These numbers are pretty self-explanatory, nevertheless, I asked my boss to elaborate on this particular gender ratio. And this is what he said… 

“Women are not as brutal as men. They are more polite and more loyal. And all that is very good for business.” 

Please take into consideration that my boss is very old-school and that the company headquarters are in the Middle East. On top of that, my company is in the construction sector. 

In your face Mr. X! 

All joking aside, you wonderful women out there! Please stop blaming and questioning yourself. Be smart and believe in yourselves. And if it indeed is necessary to seek external validation, please seek it from people that matter and whose opinions count. 

Women, you are not doing it wrong! And you do not need to wear a tie to succeed in business! 

Thank you for reading, and if feeling inspired, please leave a comment!

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