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She’s the Boss

Sara Glaz

The proportion of women holding executive jobs is rising slowly but steadily. What does that mean for the men and women working beneath them? How can a female boss best utilize her feminine traits in the workplace?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Yahoo, and PepsiCo: what do they all have in common? Aside from billions of dollars in annual revenues, they are all run by women. Twenty-six women sit at the helms of Fortune 500 companies such as Hewlett Packard, DuPont, and Xerox. But getting to these coveted positions at the top of the corporate ladder is no easy feat. While the practical climb can often prove to be impossible, especially for mothers, even those who make it are often left questioning how to properly integrate their femininity into their new roles. Take a look at various cartoon images of female bosses, and you’ll get a good idea of some of the biases or misconceptions that abound. Women in charge are often vilified as the cruel “office witch,” making unreasonable demands and not showing any compassion. On the flip side, women are also portrayed as flighty or scatterbrained figureheads whom employees walk all over. Like the rest of us, female bosses just want to be taken seriously and get the job done. How can they accomplish that — and stay true to their selves?   Personality Transplant The words “corporate” and “feminine” seem like opposites. It’s hard to imagine a merger of the two. Indeed, women entering the working world often feel the need to reinvent themselves and walk into their “C-suite” (the suite of executive offices where everyone’s title includes the word “chief”) with an entirely different personality. According to Karen Firestone, president and CEO of Aureus Asset Management, even when women possess the compulsory skills and knowledge of the business, women assume they must sacrifice their female traits in order to land a managerial role. Instead, they may adopt a heavy dose of what are thought of as traditional male qualities: determination, decisiveness, tireless work ethic, and effective use of authority (Harvard Business Review, January 16, 2013). “Even people who view themselves as kind and caring tend to jump into the prevalent atmosphere,” says Miriam Kosman, Family First columnist and author of Circle, Arrow, Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaism (Menucha Publishers, 2014). “They become competitive, aggressive, and combative.” But is this reinvention the key to being a good boss?

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