Both executive men and women have told me that if women do not find that perfect balance of sex stereotypic behavior (femininity) and professional leadership behavior, they are judged more harshly.
A part of me expected this book to wow me, but I didn’t quite get that impression from Carol Mitchell’s Breaking Through Bitch. The underlying goal of this book is to encourage women not to worry when they’re considered a bitch. It’s like Mitchell is trying to be the elite cheerleader; unfortunately, she doesn’t quite achieve it. She does reiterate some key information about women in leadership roles, though it’s more stereotype based rather than statistical or research based.
It isn’t unusual to hear a strong female leader referred to as “the dragon lady.”
In Jewish mythology Lilith is the Hebrew name of a female demon. The folklore is that Lilith was the first wife of Adam and, unlike Eve, was made at the same time and of the same earth as him. (It only took one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve.) Lilith left Adam when she refused to be subservient to him. She has come to symbolize the quintessential “uppity woman”; standing up to and behaving aggressively toward men, she is someone to be feared.
I wrote an essay a while back on Milton’s Paradise Lost. If I were to ever extend my analysis of the text, I would definitely expand on some key ideas about Sin, Eve, and Lilith. I think I left Lilith out of that particular essay, but it seems to me that there is an underlying conflation between these three key figures that could be looked at more closely. It was refreshing to have Mitchell mention Lilith in the text especially because many modern stereotypes are still informed by long-standing myth.
Executive women can see relationships and connections among seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
Don’t quote me on this, but I do believe that neuroscientists have confirmed that the female brain is quite a bit larger than a male’s brain. There are also more parts firing up at once in any given circumstance. I think it really does have to do with the reproductive nature of the female body that women are able to connect the dots better and have a sharper sense of perception. So, why is it that our leadership skills exist as a constant societal question?
Successful executive women have figured out how to delegate and let go of control – in a very controlled way.
Delegating items on an important to-do list is the leader’s worst nightmare. You really have to trust your team, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and know everyone’s potential limitations. It’s a game of gaging the reliability of someone’s potential. This is some key psychological hocus pocus that is rarely taught in school. It almost happens through osmosis from others that demonstrate the skill.
Madeleine Albright has said – and the late, great Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, has echoed – “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
This Madeleine Albright quote made me sigh in frustration. Yes, feminism in its modern form really is all about building a network of support. However, a part of me wishes that Mitchell would have expanded on why it would be prudent to not help someone. Not enabling destructive behaviors – whether by a man or woman – is a personal and professional boundary that I’ve noticed many successful women in positions of power uphold. Anyway, not sure if I would recommend Carol Mitchell’s Breaking Through Bitch. Check it out if professional development is your thing though!
Mitchell, Carol Vallone. Breaking Through “Bitch,” The Career Press, Inc., 2015.
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