Women dealing with sexism in the workplace is nothing new. One area which comes up time and time again is the difference in terminology used to describe a man versus a woman for participating in the same behaviour.
While certain actions would see a man heralded as bold or decisive, the same behaviour from a woman often results in her being called a bitch. Sadly, we are not talking about the cute female dog variety but, rather, a malicious, unpleasant or selfish person.
Top female executives around the world are often branded bitches, and they do not appear to care. They have learnt that, although being far from ideal, this stereotype must sometimes be embraced.
Many women slow their business progression or diminish their ambition in fear of being labelled a bitch. But nice girls finish last.
Women are taught to behave in a manner that runs counter to their goals. We are taught to accept what we are given, rather than demand what we deserve. We are taught to speak softly and delicately when we need to assert ourselves. Finally, we are taught to manipulate our behaviour to avoid being called a bitch.
But where has that got women? Despite making up 57 percent of college graduates, women only run 4 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. Only 14 percent of executive positions and 16 percent of board seats are held by women. Considering all that effort, it does not seem to be doing women any favours.
It is time to embrace the bitch stereotype in order to get ahead in business, and here are our top tips for doing so.
1. Stick to objective job tasks
Rather than wasting time performing traditionally-female tasks such as organising meetings and office birthday cakes, focus your attention on negotiating deals and demanding results from the rest of your team.
Being too nice will make you a target for all the housekeeping work that no one else wants to do. Your colleagues will dump it on you because you won’t complain. Do not be too nice to ask for more responsibilities and more recognition. And, if someone is not pulling their weight, call them out.
Show that, if being a bitch means that you are a woman who demands respect in all facets of her life, then you are happy to take the title.
2. Embrace traditionally-male characteristics
To establish yourself as a dominant leader, take on some mannerisms traditionally thought to be masculine. This includes speaking loudly, maintaining eye contact, not fidgeting, and avoiding discussing personal relationships (i.e. your husband and kids) as much as possible. These characteristics are often thought to be essential to a man’s success.
This also includes appearing emotionless, both in terms of rarely showing emotion and developing an attachment towards others. If you are stressed or upset at work, do not cry or outwardly show your frustration - unless in private. If your colleagues think you are easily manipulated or likely to cry at the drop of a hat, they will purposely push your buttons.
By the same token, developing feelings towards your colleagues - whether friendly or romantic - is never a good idea. Sometimes to get to the top, you have to step on those around you. It is easier to do this if you keep your work relationships strictly professional. If you act detached and aloof, people will try to win your approval, instead of you being the one who seeks theirs. Do not worry if your colleagues view you as a bitch - just make friends outside of office hours!
3. Speak up
Instead of sitting around with a charmingly feminine demeanour, hoping that someone will recognise your hard work, be vocal. Approach your boss to highlight your efforts in a recent project and explain how you have directly benefited the company. Your boss is likely busy and will not notice these things unless someone brings their attention to them. Take the lead and do not be shy about asking for a promotion or pay raise, where justified.
4. Stop apologising
Many women who are afraid of being labelled as a bitch share one common behaviour trait: they repeatedly say, “I’m sorry”. Sure, if you majorly drop the ball on a client account, you can apologise. However, most women have a terrible habit of apologising for every last thing, whether that be borrowing someone’s pen, standing in someone’s way, or voicing an opinion. Women seem to apologise for their very existence, and that is not a way to be taken seriously.
If someone calls you a bitch for stepping over someone else for a promotion, do not respond by saying “I’m sorry you feel that way, but…” Simply respond with “I don’t think it’s any of your concern” and leave it at that. Bitches do not apologise.
5. Call out those who do not meet your standards
There is nothing wrong with holding high standards for yourself, and calling out those who do not meet them. When someone wastes your time in business, rather than simply smiling and telling them it is no problem, explain that their behaviour is unacceptable and that they must change or you will not work with them again. In order to be successful, you must set standards for yourself, your employees, and your products and services.
6. Accept that bitch is just a word
Words will only have power over you if you let them. If you choose not to be offended by the word bitch and instead embrace it, you will no longer be afraid to act brazenly in business.
Remind yourself that “bitch” is a sexist term designed to render traditionally-male characteristics, such as confidence, power and assertiveness, into negative and unattractive qualities for women. It is merely a word designed to keep women in their place - which is out of the boardroom.
When you are not afraid of being called a bitch, you will say exactly what you mean and want. That will lead to better understanding and, ultimately, more respect from your colleagues. Clear communication is imperative to your success.
Allowing yourself to be viewed as a bitch does not make you a bad person. It shows that you fight for what you want in life.
7. Understand that criticism is often a form of jealousy
When someone tries to insult you by calling you a bitch, it usually means they are jealous of your success. The word is usually thrown about to marginalise women to ensure they do not get what they want. Instead of being offended, view it as a compliment that you are performing well.
Men who call women bitches are often threatened by them. In future, work around them, or - even better - above them. If a colleague repeatedly refers to you as a bitch, pull them aside and explain that their behaviour is not professional and will not be tolerated.
8. Don't take it too far
While you may use the tips above to take on characteristics that make you appear like a bitch, you do not need to be rude or nasty to anyone to get ahead. Treat people with politeness and respect, and remain a decent human being, but also be hard-willed and highly-opinionated.
To succeed in business as a woman, you will have to embrace some characteristics that may see you labelled as a bitch. Although it is unfortunate that women are still in a position where they constantly have to prove themselves in a sexist corporate environment, you will achieve great things if you can accept this fact and use it to your advantage. Women seemingly cannot win, so you might as well embrace your bitchier side and use it to your advantage.
Accept that some people will call you a bitch, but the only thing that matters is how you deal with that. Success is the best form of revenge, so keep pushing forward to be the best businesswoman you can be!
Have you ever been called a bitch at work? Share your story in the comments below.