I recently read an article that made me question my perception of myself. I am jokingly (at least I THINK jokingly) referred to in the office as “The Bitch.” Rather than taking this as an insult, I’ve decided to wear the moniker as a sort of badge of honor. In fact, I’ve LITERALLY worn it as a badge of honor – I have a pin that rather stylishly labels me as “Bitch” (see pic below).
I have chosen to be proud of the designation because I think it is a sign of my take-charge-y-ness (or if you prefer, leadership-y-ness.) I had always assumed that the “bitch” response to my leadership style was a result of a personal failing. My inability to take on a leadership role without coming off as overbearing or bossy. But it was still a positive because – however flawed – I was still being recognized as a leader.
This is an accomplishment in my mind, given that as the second-generation part-owner of an HVAC contracting firm, there are some significant obstacles to overcome before being perceived as a leader. For example:
- I have the stigma of nepotism over my head every day.
- I share the mantle of leadership with my older brother.
- I’m ten years + younger than most of the Management Team.
- I’m twenty years + behind in technical HVAC experience than most of the Management Team (including my brother and business partner).
- And lastly, I’m a woman in a predominately male field. (Like, WAY predominately.)
However, the article “The End of “Bitchy”: Addressing Stereotypes of Women At Work” suggests that it is not my leadership style, but my gender (and the stereotypes that come with it) that makes all the difference. It suggests that if I were male, I might be perceived as confident and self-assured rather than “bitchy.”
Then again, it could just be me. And that’s OK too. I do my best. I strive to grow as a person on a daily (if not minute-to-minute) basis, but realize I’m a work in progress. Either way, I think I’m doing pretty well with a half-joking “Bitchy” designation. I think it means I’m doing my job the best way I know how.
But I really appreciated the new perspective I gained from the article and maybe you will too…
Last year I was honored at a dinner celebrating my career as founder and president of a thriving communications firm. Employees, clients, family, and friends praised my accomplishments. It felt wonderful.
But then toward the end of those remarks, a woman friend took the mic from the MC and announced: “I have known Judith longer than any of you have, and she is the most aggressive woman I ever met.” I looked at her aghast, wondering why she had said this about me—and why she had even thought this.
During those moments when we are showing our strongest selves, women often are hit with ugly, critical comments. We are called “aggressive,” “bossy,” and “bitchy.” Senior women I work with report they are at times labelled “ball buster” and “ice queen.” And it’s not only men who apply these terms. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd compared Hilary Clinton to the Snow Queen in Disney’s Frozen because, Dowd claimed, both lack the warmth people expect (of a woman!).
Women everywhere need to combat these stereotypes that suggest there is something wrong with being the strong, confident women we have every right to be. Click here for full article…