Hello SOTGC community,
The phrase “nice girls finish last” is used so often that it has become cliché. I’ve used it myself, in times of exasperation when I’ve been feeling overused and underappreciated, and I have no doubt that many women reading this will have done so, too. But is this true in business? There is a fairly widespread stereotype of the successful woman as the “business bitch,” but are those really our only options—to be a “bitch,” or to be a “pushover”?
I’ve read countless blog posts in recent years advising women in business that the best way to get ahead is to be a “bitch”; to stop apologising, to not do anyone any favours, and to look out for “number one.” The argument is that this is the best way for female entrepreneurs to ensure respect for themselves and their business, and for them to develop a reputation so they won’t be taken advantage of.
I certainly agree that some of us, quite possibly including myself, need to learn to be more assertive at times. It’s one thing for women not to stand up for themselves for fear of being branded a “bitch,” which is a real and valid issue. However, proposing that the only way for women to be successful in business is to deliberately act this way definitely raises some questions for me. Do these women really have respect? And, if so, is respect based on fear actually of any value? In addition, could these women not, in fact, actually be alienating potential clients, colleagues, and partners with this attitude?
I recently read the term “people-pleaser” on a colleague’s blog, and thought this was a very appropriate term to describe me. Ann Frank wrote, “No one ever became poor by giving.” Obviously she never met me! Perhaps not financially, but certainly mentally and emotionally; I’ve actually gone to some fairly extraordinary lengths in the past in order to help out both clients and colleagues, as well as people in my personal life.
This personality trait has meant that my professional reputation over the years has been built around comments such as, “Speak to Laura, she’s very helpful,” and similar. I do believe that my networking efforts are often more successful due to my willingness to help where I can, and I’ve also had favours repaid in completely unexpected ways.
However, do these people I help actually respect me and my business? Not always. Being a “people-pleaser” can at times be synonymous with being a “pushover.” It’s easy to leave yourself open to being taken advantage of, whether this is unintentional or due to your “niceness” being seen as a sign of “weakness,” and this is definitely something I’ve had to learn how to recognize over the years.
As in yoga, and many other areas of life, I believe balance is key here. Yes, it can often be very difficult to get the respect we deserve as women in the business world. However, I don’t believe we should sacrifice our personalities and reduce feminine strength to the “bitch” model in order to achieve this.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that even the “nicest” of us will often spring like lionesses to the defence of something we care about when it is threatened. We need to make sure we give our business this same respect, by protecting ourselves from those who may wish to take advantage of us, or abuse our generosity.
I’d like to think that as women in business, we don’t have to fit ourselves into the predefined “business bitch” stereotype, but, in fact, are actually free to run our businesses according to our own personal beliefs and values. There are a multitude of ways in which we can present strength other than through aggression.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Let us know via the comments, or on social media!
If you’re just getting started in business or need professional translation, writing, and editing services, Laura offers business consultancy, both specific to the language services industry and on general business and marketing topics for freelancers and entrepreneurs. See LanguagebyLaura.com for further information.