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Quit Being a Girl!

March 7, 2012

Less than a year ago, I mentally still called myself a girl.  You know, that inner voice, that picture you hold of yourself in your mind?  Mine was still a girl. A girl of 28, sure, but still a girl.


Then I read “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel.   In the first chapters of the book, I was instructed to give  myself permission to be a woman instead of a girl.  I was already striving to achieve the behaviors that would help me, but I hadn’t made the mental leap of thinking of myself as a grown up adult woman.  I hadn’t stopped thinking of myself as a girl.  (Or perhaps not a girl, not yet a woman.)  It was a surprisingly big mental shift, and I can’t believe I waited so long to embrace it.

A girl  is  indirect in her communication, careful not to take too much power away from men.  She uses words that soften her tone.   A woman  assertively makes sure her needs are met.  A woman who is still learning not to do this re-reads her emails and deletes any unnecessary words.

A girl is excited to be helpful to her coworkers & always agrees to their requests.  A woman generally expects people do their own work, helping out her equals only when necessary.  And a woman expects that favor to be returned!  She say she doesn’t have time when a man asks her to do a tedious copy/paste task for him.  (Yes, I had the 15-30 minutes it would have taken – but so did he!)  And she’ll keep saying no until he learns not to ask unless it is necessary.

A girl will be thankful for whatever job she has, even as she struggles to break out of the role she is in.   A woman will walk into the office of the chief technical officer of the SoCal region and ask for a new job.  And she might get it.

A girl will be terrified when cutbacks are announced.   A woman will be confident that even if her current role vanishes from under her, she’ll be fine.  (There is some chance of this right now. Not only is it a research & development project, there is some program stuff threatening it.  But I’m not worried.  Three years ago, I would have been worried.)

A girl naively thinks that working hard and being smart is all it takes to move up.   A woman knows that is only part of the puzzle.

Have you done any woman-like things at work lately?  If you are a man, this still applies!  You are not a boy anymore, you are a man!

20 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 12:13 pm

    This is something that I’ve been working on too. Wearing make-up and nice jeans with nice shoes and professional-looking tops is one of my ways of feeling more like a woman than a girl.

    I am really proud of myself – I actually just randomly asked a director at another company if he had a job available for me yesterday! I’m not even interested in moving companies right now.

    I’m not concerned about if we had cutbacks – I have adequate cash savings and I’m pretty confident that I could find another job within 1-3 months.

    it’s definitely taking some getting used to seeing how much I’m really worth and what you have to do to advance. It seems to be more about who you know than about what you do. Confidence is so important too, which is something that men seem to have more of early on.

  2. oilandgarlic permalink
    March 7, 2012 2:07 pm

    I have to act like a woman and ask for some flexibility/compensation at work. A big part of me expects to be turned down but I am going to ask. Love that Lori Frankel book.

  3. March 7, 2012 3:26 pm

    Not enough businesses value R&D! Good to see your confidence in your own value growing.

  4. March 7, 2012 5:52 pm

    Love this – I can hardly ever figure out how to say no when people at work ask me for help. How would you do that?

    • March 7, 2012 8:47 pm

      All of this assumes that saying no or limiting your help is right for your situation… But I skimmed my book again for some concrete tips

      – If they want you to help by explaining something, set a boundary. “Sure, I’d love to help you out, but I only have about 30 minutes today. Let’s see what we can cover” Then stick to the boundary with similar references to today’s busy schedule & offer to continue the conversation the next day.

      – If they are asking you to do something that they should just do themselves. “You know, I’d love to help you out with that, but I’m just swamped.” Then stop talking. Resist the need to fix their problem. (This is the method I’ve used the most.)

      – if you do decide to help, make sure they realize you are doing them a favor. Not in a petty way, she suggests something like “I was going to meet a friend for dinner. Let me call her and let her know I’ll be late.” (or whatever).

  5. March 7, 2012 7:53 pm

    Great post. I just started a new job and feel very girlish (although I’m 24, so that might be half the issue). I hate myself for my timidity, but notice that it does began to affect people’s behavior toward me and I’m quick to lose their respect… and it’s time to break the cycle. My situation requires me to be more deferential than others, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it with a more self-assured attitude. It’s definitely something that most of us struggle with – being raised one way, and trying to make it in the very different corporate world.

  6. March 8, 2012 4:46 pm

    Check to all of that.

    I still call myself ” a girl ” in my head, but when I negotiate and ask for what I want without compromises, there’s no question I’m not a pushover and I am a professional woman.

    The keys for most women to remember:
    1. Always negotiate
    2. Don’t soften your tone with: “I think it’s a good idea if” for instance, say: “It’d be a good idea if”
    3. Be more assertive, confident and tell people what you want. No hemming and hawing and wishy-washyness.
    4. Say ‘No’ more often. If they prod why, say: “I’m busy. I needed more notice.”
    5. Be PROFESSIONAL. None of this girlish giggling and pretending to be dumb to get attention or to make all the guys in the office love you. That shizz doesn’t work on anyone and it makes other women disrespect you.

    …etc etc!

  7. March 10, 2012 2:06 pm

    I will still offer to do the occasional helpful “beneath” me thing but if it’s for one of my male colleagues who should know better, I now punish them a little for it. In good humor, but it underscores the fact that I’m only helping because I want the job done and not because I’m a weak little girl who will do administrative stuff because that’s my “place”.

    It also reminds them who’s really better at getting everything done around this place, and pushes me out of the single digit and into the double digit raise area.

    Definitely agree with Ask A Manager’s post and the points about being straightforward. I push all my staff to answer me honestly when I ask them what they want in our meetings and I tell my boss what when I want it or I lay the groundwork for it.

    One of the MOST frequent things that references tell me about the female staff I hire when I ask “What would you suggest that this candidate could most improve?” is a variation on the theme of:

    She doesn’t advocate for herself. She does great work but she doesn’t put herself forward.

    • March 11, 2012 10:04 pm

      Right – there are times to help out, for sure. And there are ways to help without being a pushover.

      I had gotten myself into a pattern with a coworker (who was certainly more senior, but who I had no responsibility to). He couldn’t get over seeing me as someone whom he could delegate things he didn’t want to do to. Since I had been pushing for more responsibility & work from day one (and he insists on only working on things in the box that he liked to work in), it wasn’t long before i had more going on than he did. He still wanted me to do his crap work. And he wasn’t the most personable guy either, so it really took some firmness to get him to buzz off. And I was really happy that I did that.

      (But, we still had struggles in our professional relationship up until my last day – so I have more to learn! But he has more to learn – he’s really difficult!)

  8. March 10, 2012 2:45 pm

    Haha, awesome, I’m totes a woman. 🙂 I’m very good at saying, “Yes, but in exchange…” People respect my time more than they respect the time of the women who just say “Sure, no problem.” Obviously I must be doing important things with my time.

  9. Bethany permalink
    March 11, 2012 12:27 am

    Thank you for this post. I have been hard-core trained to do the exact opposite. It bothers me to address people by first name (yeah). I’m taking this post as a personal challenge though. No more sidekick.

  10. March 11, 2012 6:37 pm

    Really interesting post. I’m going to store these tips away. They should help on my climb up the ladder.

  11. bluecollarworkman permalink
    April 6, 2012 6:29 am

    From reading Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus (my wife made me and I’m glad she did!) some of these differences between “girl” and “woman” actually sound like differences between women and men. But as the author points out, even if your tendency is to act a certain way (like trying to help people out too much and often to the detriment of yourself — that’s not a girl thing, that’s a female thing), you certainly should work on being more balanced about it. So I agree with everything you said, and think peopel shoudl cerrtianly work to be more assertive and step confidently into the role/position you want and not submit to whatever others want, but I wanted to point out that some things mentioned in this list seem more like “female” qualities than “girl.” And hey, I’m not tryin to diss women here, us men have a list of our own of qualities we could work to balance out a little better!

    • April 6, 2012 6:45 am

      I get what you are trying to say – but down with the patriarchy!!!

      Just kidding. Sort of. 🙂

      I agree that females in general may tend to these qualities more than males. But I think it is much more useful (for a woman) to look at these qualities as something that young girls do, and to know you can “grow up” and be more assertive and make sure your needs to be met. There are other very positive “female” qualities that are the markers of maturity and capability, so the idea isn’t to be “like a man”, it really is “be a woman”. Be mature, stand up for your needs, expect others to respect your time, etc. It really helped me mentally to see these qualities as girl-ish rather than “female”

      • bluecollarworkman permalink
        April 9, 2012 6:49 am

        Fair enough. “Be mature, stand up for your needs, expect others to respect your time…” I can agree with that!


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