I have a hypothesis based on my experience about bold women at workplace. It is this: A bold woman in middle management would be far, far more effective than her male counterparts.
By bold woman I mean a woman with mannerisms of a man. A woman who is manly and outspoken, who swears at work like men do in casual settings, who doesn’t hesitate before insulting a subordinate for their performance related or other issues.
A woman with a bunch of qualities described above would be exceptionally successful as manager. It would be nearly impossible for a male counterpart to compete with her for growth in the organization.
The reason for this has to do with women having free pass in a lot of things in the society. One of those things is behaving unprofessionally at work. I’ll also break down the free pass in a bit.
Some examples of women’s free pass: In many offices, women can wear a top that shows their cleavage but men wearing a t-shirt would be considered unprofessional dressing. There are formal knee length skirts, but there is no such thing as formal shorts for men. A man who stares at a woman at work would be terminated from employment for that – and I have seen that happening – but a woman staring at men would face zero consequences. It’s not even a concern worth mentioning.
I mentioned the above examples to show that there are double standards in viewing men and women at work and in the society at large.
These double standards that create the free pass for women have their roots in biology, and they are justified. The point of this article is not to complain about or dispute the double standards.
The so-called “double standard” – or different ways of judging men and women’s behaviors – can not be changed nor does it need to be. Because it is biologically rooted, and for a reason. The problem arises, however, when we are forced to accept the view that men and women are equal and hence it’s okay for them to behave the same way. This view forced upon our conscience creates a confused psyche which combined with biologically rooted double standard then views men who swear as rude and unprofessional but takes kinder and amused view of a woman displaying the same behavior. This is how the free pass for women arises. And when the narrative of women empowerment is incorporated in that psyche it gives the bold woman a rather positive aura.
Even when she swears at a subordinate while reprimanding them, she would not come off as offensive, if at all, as a man doing the same. Moreover, a man can’t reprimand a female subordinate without a risk of her taking offense and possible HR action; but a female manager can use any language towards a man without any fear because most men are used to the bad language.
It is because of the confused psyche that if a man displays boldness – in language and manners – at work, he will be considered unprofessional. But a women who is bold in the same way would at best be considered empowered, at worst would arouse amusement. Yes, by applying rational thought one would agree that the woman is being unprofessional, but one’s reactions are seldom based on rational thought. Therefore, the bold woman would not elicit the same negative reaction as the bold man would while getting the job done.
This gives bold women great power over their subordinates, influence over their peers, and marked advantage over their male counterparts, making them unusually effective in management positions.
This is of course generally speaking and there can be exceptions. I would love to know observations of other people on this.