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They Call Me Mrs. Tibbs – Sometimes.

Is being a competent, professional businesswoman acting like a man?

A CNN article titled, “When a Woman Should Act Like a Man” discussed a soon-to-be published study that shows how women must be able to pull from a “a tool box of traits that you can call on in professional situations.” George Washington University Professor Olivia O’Neill and Stanford Business School’s Charles O’Reilly studied traits that are classified solidly as masculine or feminine. That facebook’s incredible panel on Women in Technology would happen just a few weeks after the article was published was good fortune for young (and older) women still navigating the corporate terrain.

ONeill-OReilly Selected Traits in Study

According to these two professors, the glass ceiling is the wrong metaphor. Apparently, the floor is glass as well. Of the MBA students the study followed over eight years, what was clear is that women must negotiate tough and strong right out of the gate in order to build a firm foundation for a stronger, longer career. The gender bias begins long before women are bumping their heads trying to reach the C-level.

The research basically says that women need to know when to “Man Up!” or highlight their hair as keys to success. Seriously? Are those traits more critical than actually mastering a subject, putting in sweat to get the job done, and staying atop of trends in your industry? Not that I don’t agree that being assertive is critical to leadership. I simply disagree that we should continue to classify assertiveness as an exclusively male characteristic.

Thanks to Women in Technology Panel hosted by White House Senior Advisor Valerie B. Jarrett at Facebook headquarters yesterday, five women sat on stage of all different nationalities, personalities, skill sets and backgrounds. One wore sneakers, another wore stilettos  – neither seemed out of place in a discussion about women and power in the math/science field. At least four of the five were mothers, and they were as at ease discussing their girls clothes selection as they were about establishing venture capital funds and strategies.

Ultimately, I want my daughter’s choices in business to reflect her readiness, knowledge and management skills developed under proper mentoring and training vs. a random labeling. Let’s create some new labels for our approach to conflict resolution and our solid business acumen.  I’m calling them my Tibbs’ Traits! When Sidney Poitier declared that the old-school police officers unaccustomed to an African-American with a title call him “Mr.”it was a pivotal moment; one that signaled to the power structure that it MUST shift. Demanding that your title and hard work be recognized and rewarded may shake up the foundation at times. But, I guess it’s that time again!

LINKS:

Women in Technology Panel

CNN Article “When a Woman Should Act Like a Man”

Sidney Poitier: “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs

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