I had an interesting conversation this weekend with a friend at Harvard Business School about a study they read about woman in business. To completely dilute it, he basically said that all people fall into one of four categories in business:
1. Likeable and Capable
2. Likeable and Not Capable
3. Capable and Not Likeable
4. Not capable nor Likeable.
He then went on to say that very rarely is a top woman in business considered the ideal, #1, but rather is #3, also known as a bitch.
It’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard this breakdown, but never so formalized. It also really got to me because for what’s it worth, I consider myself to be both likeable and capable (in business), and also successful. Perhaps there would be a dramatic difference were I to be running a large organization in corporate America. But, regardless, it was an upsetting reminder that strong woman who are in positions of power, in order to be successful, tend to be regarded as bitches or need to water their abilities down to be more likeable. It’s no surprise, if you believe this, that attractive woman bank on their looks, or use flirtation as a tool since it seems difficult to be accepted as strong and simultaneously likeable.
I’d love to hear from successful woman who have faced this dilemma. I’d also like to hear from men who ‘answer’ to successful woman and learn about your perceptions of them.