Do good girls get what they deserve?

We've been thinking about what makes the difference between the men and women that fearlessly stride ahead without seeming to turn a hair, and those that feel guilt at every turn. And we think the difference lies in whether or not the women are what might be described as 'good girls'. Good friends, good listeners, good mums (if that's appropriate), good daughters, and, above all else, good employees.

You know what we mean by good girls - the ones that feel guilty if they're in a bit late, who stay when there's an urgent job to do even though they're standing their friends up (again), the ones that have to steel their nerves to ask for a pay rise (even though it's massively deserved) and the ones who everyone turns to when things needs doing at the last minute because they're 'a real trooper'.

But we've been thinking a lot about whether any of these qualities make women good at getting ahead. And having spoken to a few bright women who make it their business to know about such things, we're sorry to say this, but…

Being a good woman may well mean that you're not getting everything you deserve to get.

When we were first faced with this thought, put to us by the brilliant Peta Payne over a pot of tea one morning, we have to admit, we protested as hard as we could. "But we've both been in business for years, we cried, we're doing OK, we work hard, we stay late, we're always to be trusted, we're reliable, we're…"

"Exactly!" Peta said (well, we paraphrase). She asked us to listen to ourselves – and ask whether any of these attributes really get us - or the people we know - noticed. While we women are often busy beavering away at our desks, the men are out there networking, connecting, socialising (no rushing home for bath and bed for them, or worrying because they're going to be late for the friend who's having a hard time - again) and getting themselves a better deal. They push, they insist, they put themselves forward. If women want to get ahead, she concluded, they need to focus on smarter ways to get noticed.

We loved hearing Peta's point of view. Her organisation (International Women of Excellence - www.iwe-voice.org) is dedicated to helping huge corporations attract more women at board level.

And it made us think. Were we really getting ahead all of those times when we stayed late, mopped up a mistake, supported a less-than-able colleague, worked a weekend? Or were we just being good, obedient women?

We'd like to redefine what it means to be good. We think there's a lot to learn from the type of motivated, focussed behaviour that gets you ahead – as long as (and this is really key for us) it's done with passion and integrity, and not by trampling on others to get somewhere. We think that not playing the role of corporate 'good girl' can be good, especially in tough times. And we truly believe that this will get you further than a working lifetime of early mornings and staying late.

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