Thursday, March 11, 2010

Can women talk tough in tough times?

Over at The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, we've been discussing a New York Times article that recently looked at women in the workplace, and how many of them are concerned they'll be seen as bitchy when they speak up at work. This time, it's not just societal views of women influencing this line of thinking, the article notes:
Yet one issue was even more personal: A recession was in full swing, and jobs were on the line. As one woman put it, “Even in this day and age, a guy barks out an order and he is treated like someone who is in charge and a leader. But when a woman communicates in the exact same way, she’s immediately labeled assertive, dominating, aggressive and overbearing.”
Notice, by the way, how "assertive"--which used to be the preferred term for polite and appropriate speaking-up--is lumped in with aggressive. I was curious about how you saw the article. Here's what our Facebook fans had to say:

  • Robin Ferrier: "I haven't read the article yet, but I will say a lot of my professional colleagues believe that as a woman you definitely have to be more assertive to be heard... and that once you're more assertive, you get a negative rep."
  • Sharon Larisey: "I agree with the article and with the idea that, as women, we have to use greater finesse to get our messages across in order to even be heard, much less labeled (or libeled)."
  • Andrea J Wenger: "Communication in the workplace is a tightrope walk, regardless of gender. It's possible to be both assertive and kind. The middle ground is generally a better choice than either extreme, for both men and women."
  • Helen Fisher: Do we want to keep our jobs ? I agree with Sharon.In today's world we have to do what ever to just keep a job. I like the middle ground. Is it worth it to not have a job today just because we find double standards? There was a time in the past we could leave a job if we felt not worth it to fight the battle.But now it has come down to survial for both male and female.I think our economy has rocked the playing field more then ever on both sides. It has certainly weakened the average worker and the fairness of the workplace. I would agree with the article in better times of past but not today and where the workplace is headed.
Or, as the article's author concluded: "The ultimate goal: for them to get the message without wanting to get back at you."  What do you think? Have you changed your speaking approach in the office in these tough economic times? How do you handle your workplace speaking? 

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