Front Line

A career management briefing for
visionary women

The indomitable woman: the adventuress

Want to be hatched, matched, and dispatched? No, we didn't think so. Our Adventuress Series on Instagram celebrates female entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, and characters. Women who refuse to be bound by society's limitations or by what others tell them they can or can do. Our highlights from the last week are:

Delilah: a 'dangerous' woman because she was not defined by a male relationship
Holly Golightly: her eccentricity made it okay to be glamorous and non-conformist at the same time
Frida Kahlo and Edna St. Vincent Millay: artists who were overlooked or faced a backlash because they vividly portrayed women's realities around sex, menstruation, etc.

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Make a consolidating career move

Love new ideas and experiences? Describe yourself as fairly ambitious? Rather go out and play than stay in? Chances are your professional background tells the story of someone who can't commit or who lacks in-depth expertise. Where you have experiences from 3 or more different industries or functions, it can be hard for employers to understand your value-add.

What can you do to address this? One, make sure that your next career chapter consolidates your experiences to date. It needs to leverage the skills you've developed and bring your varied experiences together under the umbrella of a common theme or focus. Two, develop a crisp story about what you've done so far. Make sure that your CV, LinkedIn profile, and elevator pitch all reflect this clearly.

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Your dance to the top

Recent research indicates women that who want to be executive-level leaders need to manage their 'agentic behaviour' with exceptional agility. Agentic behaviours contain two elements: competence and dominance. Stereotypically 'masculine', they include traits like assertiveness and competitiveness. Studies repeatedly show that heightened levels of these qualities, and reduced levels of the more 'feminine' communal qualities (compassion, friendliness), are closely associated with positive perceptions of leadership potential, ability, and impact. Notably, this permeates both others' perceptions of us and our own estimations of ourselves.

Research published this month shows that male and female executives demonstrate commensurate levels of agentic behaviours. However, there is a marked difference between men and women when it comes to lower levels in the organisational hierarchy. What does this mean? The authors of this research suggest that it means there may be added pressure on women to be agentic when they want to be considered leadership material. (We sidestep an important debate here about how agentic women 'naturally' are.)

What we find particularly interesting is the juxtaposition of this research with an important paper titled “Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women”. Here, the authors find that women who demonstrate untempered agentic traits are 'punished'. Punishment takes the form of social repercussions, and leads to hiring discrimination and disqualification for leadership roles, among other negative practices. What should women use to temper their agentic traits then? Niceness.

Clearly these findings have significant implications for the level of awareness that women need to bring to their roles and the workplace. Given such circumstances, crucial questions include: How do I manage the balance between agentic and 'nice'? How do I stay true to myself while managing this Catch-22? Where do I get the energy to manage this double bind from? For better or worse, the answer betokens the very nature of the problem: we cannot generalise for all women. Save a substantial and significant shift in our perceptions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a leader, we all need to learn how to 'dance agentic' in a way that best honours who we are and what our journey to (and experience of) leadership means to us.

This Week

Articles that shocked, informed, and inspired us

How Can You Use Your Tone of Voice to Create Buy-In?

(A 5-min investment in new tactics for 2019. Tip: scroll through the first 2 pages)

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Create More Self-Awareness with an Operations Manual

Sexism Continues to Thrive in Sports

From condescension to blatant sexual harassment, women are breaking barriers but also facing backlash in the 2019 World Cup

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Ask a Question

We answer all questions we receive and protect your privacy. We're regularly sought out to help with personal career issues, or to help leaders with talent management or culture at their company.

Who We Are

We help leaders and founders create successful careers and companies. #leadership #WorkplaceCulture #CareerManagement

Arieli & Company

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1 Devonshire Street
London W1W 5DR