It’s no secret that being called “bossy” isn’t quite a compliment. But some women are trying to change that. Sheryl Sandberg, the author of what’s become a reference book for girlbosses everywhere, Lean In, said, “I want every little girl who someone says ‘they’re bossy’ about to be told instead, ‘you have leadership skills.’” Even though we’re trying to reclaim the word “bossy” by celebrating the word girlboss, LBH — between the wage gap, prevalence of old-school gender stereotypes, and double standards for men and women in the office, it make us wonder if we have to remove all of our femininity from our clothes and mannerisms in order to be taken seriously. That doesn’t seem fair at all, and we don’t think that’s the answer. Here are six ways that some of the best girlbosses out there harness their skills without compromising their feminine qualities.
1. Own your feminine strengths. Multiple studies show that women are stronger listeners, better communicators, and superior storytellers than men. These qualities are all incredibly important in the business world, so rock them to your advantage. Listening is especially valuable as a manager, since you’ll be able to understand and empathize with your employees before you make a decision or give tough feedback. Use communication and storytelling to your advantage when presenting a creative project or making a major recommendation to your colleagues.
2. Share your own story — struggles and all. As a female leader, don’t be afraid to reveal some vulnerability by sharing your story. Tell others why you started your business or how you became a VP. Talk about the challenges you’ve had to overcome to be successful and be vocal about the fears you still experience. Not only are personal stories humanizing, but when you share your vulnerability, people (AKA employees you manage) feel compelled to support you. They want to learn from their leaders, especially when you let them into your life.
Also, you’ll be encouraging women all around you to lean in. Hearing that you’ve overcome similar obstacles they’re facing will be hugely inspiring to women with girlboss aspirations too.
3. Support other women. Studies show that there tends to be competition between women at work, because there’s a perceived limited number of management and C-level spots for women (and the rest appear to be reserved for men). But we won’t gain equality at work by keeping other women down. The mark of a true leader is one who creates other leaders too. Many women leaders make an effort to partner and collaborate with other women, because they know we’re stronger together (#girlboss gang, anyone?).
4. Know your only competition is in the mirror. Men are not your competition. Neither are other women. Only you compete with you. Constant comparison will only hurt your mental health. Your business and career are your own unique experience. Just concern yourself with your own progress and growth in your own private space. However, healthy competition, or learning from your colleagues and being inspired to achieve similar things, can be good for your career and goal-setting sessions. Just keep the comparison in check.
5. Be authentically yourself. Trying to dial up what are typically perceived as masculine qualities like aggression, competition, and vying for airtime in meetings are fine if they are who you naturally are. If you’re acting that way to compensate for your more feminine qualities, you simply don’t have to. Don’t hide your goofy, eccentric, introverted, outspoken, funny, serious whoever-you-are-you persona. Focusing on refining your natural gifts will do more for you than working on any weaker areas you have or trying to become someone you’re not.
6. Don’t be afraid to shine. Sometimes we can worry that our success can make other people feel small, uncomfortable, or inadequate. But in fact, the opposite is true. Think for a moment of two to three people who inspire you. Is it because they dull themselves? Or is it because they allow themselves to be seen and therefore sparkle? We thought so.
What “feminine” attributes do you let shine at work? Let me know in the comments!