Women possess the smarts and skills to succeed in any job.
But here’s the catch (and one reason its taken so long for women to break through): There is a double standard so that the same behaviours that help men get ahead and prove their worth on the job are discouraged in women.
In a Stanford University research project, people (of both sexes) were asked to list desirable adjectives for men and women. The answers re desirable male traits were all about being assertive, dominant, independent and decisive. Those are all traits that both genders should prize. But the desirable traits listed for women were all about relationships: loyal, compassionate, warm, cheerful, soft-spoken.
This creates enormous fears in women: we are afraid of being too assertive, we are afraid of not being good enough and we live with an all-purpose anxiety.
Aside from the office and career anxieties everyone faces, women have specific work-related fears that centre on the paradox of maintaining relationships and remaining “feminine” while still doing a good job.
These are the fears of ambition and assertiveness.
According to psychiatrist Anna Fels:
At each historical juncture where women have achieved access to social influence and recognition – legal and political rights, educational opportunities, career options – their capacity to be “real women” has been impugned
Fels also notes the barrage of fear-mongering magazine articles and news stories that imply women have to chose between being a professional and being a good wife and / or mother.
The internalisation of this fear begins at an early age. Girls begin life with just as much ambition as boys, but they slowly lose steam in adolescence, right when self-consciousness about gender roles begins to seep in.
The result is that women get the message loud and clear that ambition isn’t