Tech & Work

Should women act like men to get ahead?

Author Vickie Milazzo says women need to extol their accomplishments more in order to succeed in the business world.

A recent article in The New Yorker revealed that only 7 percent of women negotiate their salaries up front when entering a new position...compared to 57 percent of men. A new study conducted by researchers from several business schools, including Columbia University Business School, suggests that one of the reasons for the shortage of women in high-level corporate positions is that they just don't exaggerate their accomplishments enough.

"The study indicates that men tend to exaggerate their accomplishments more than women do, and thus they gain an edge when competing for corporate positions," says Vickie Milazzo, author of the New York Times best-seller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. "That doesn't mean men lie during job interviews or performance reviews — but it does mean they exhibit a lot more confidence in workplace situations. They're not afraid to sing their own praises."

The same author claims that career women go too far in the other direction: They underestimate the accomplishments they do have.

"To match the success men can have in the business world, women need to be comfortable with talking about their achievements," says Milazzo. "It's not about lying or over exaggerating. It's about ultra positioning. Clearly, we females need to take a page from the male playbook and make sure that we're getting the recognition and credit we've earned."

The fact is, men or women who know how to position themselves and market themselves are more successful. Gender lines aside, I also think that it proves a point that, I think, we've all seen in action: In a good many corporate environments, sometimes sheer nerve and gall will get you further than talent. And the people with the real talent, if they don't sell it, often go unnoticed as they competently go about doing their jobs.

So what do you guys think? Am I just a Negative Nellie?

Edited to add: When I wrote this blog I intentionally stayed away from the inevitably incendiary point that when women "act like men" they are often perceived as harpies. The same behavior in men is interpreted as being assertive or strong. I thought that if I had mentioned that, I would be pummeled with comments calling me a paranoid man-hater. However, a gentleman in the discussion following the blog soon made my point without my having to do so when he said: "Personally I don't like it when women are too "manly." Men and women are created equal, not identical. Men have strong points and women have theirs. I think it's best to play to your strengths, and to be yourself, instead of being a baracuda!"

And I rest my case.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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