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Columnist Joan Baker offers some straight shooting advice for women on how to get ahead without being a bitch or relying too heavily on feminine wiles

Columnist Joan Baker offers some straight shooting advice for women on how to get ahead without being a bitch or relying too heavily on feminine wiles

By Joan Baker*

What’s a girl to do to be successful? 

There’s such an array of advice out there – everything from being told to employ all your feminine wiles to being exhorted effectively to ‘man up’! Should you play the sex card to get ahead or just concentrate on beating the boys at their own game? 

After working in executive positions for years and observing the dynamics of organisations as both a consultant and coach I think the recipe for female success is a little more subtle: Toughen up – but don’t be a bitch.

Business – or success in any profession - is not for babies. It’s not kindy and it doesn’t pay to expect that everyone is nice and will play fair and be your friend.

On the other hand, most success is ultimately about having good relationships so hold your adversarial tendencies or extreme competitiveness in check. Don’t rely on your looks – and don’t neglect them either.

It can be very tempting to play the sex card especially when you are starting out and are at your youngest and most appealing. It’s relatively easy to become teacher's pet - or worse. Nearly always ends badly and with you paying most of the cost.

On the other hand, appeal matters. People like to be around and do business with others who are attractive. There’s a wealth of research to indicate that you are perceived as smarter and more effective in your job if we like the look of you. So be wary of going overboard defending the right of the sisterhood to be judged on merit rather than appearance.

Don’t get ulcers climbing molehills but pick the hills to die on. Many women in the workplace seem to have ‘issues’ – with just about everything. This is very tedious for your colleagues, not to mention a distraction from the real work in hand. 

Ultimately, it makes you very high maintenance and just too hard to do business with. At the same time, don't be a wimp. Choose your fights well and be seen to stand for the things that really matter in your field.

Be a net contributor

What will you be known for? Don’t be a martyr but give more than you take.

It’s easy for women to be socialised into playing second fiddle, letting others take all the credit and expecting others to notice and acknowledge their contribution. We are often expected to fly under the radar and can collude in being our own worst enemies. On the other hand, the world owes you nothing.

Women are not deserving of success in any work field just because we are female. Make sure you are seen as a net contributor rather than looking for an easy ride. Ditch the expectations but read the game. It’s common for women to talk about the expectations others have of them – from home, school and even in the adult and work world.

In our times, it’s easy to fall for the expectation that you must do it all – and gracefully. This will no doubt include looking good, being a great partner, raising a family and being successful at work, and, oh, did I say all at the same time, please?

Don’t allow others to define your roles and expectations – do it your way. It’s no one else’s job to sort out your priorities, take care of your career or provide you with ‘balance’, so you'll have to carve it out for yourself, and that could take creativity.

Success is personal

Get real about what it takes to succeed in your chosen work and life and make your choices. You can have just about anything you want in life but probably not it all. Success matters. Not just any success or success defined by others, but rather what feels like success for you.

Think about what you really really want and then do what it takes.

*Joan Baker is a Queenstown-based business consultant, financial columnist and author of "Why a man is not a financial plan.'' Her latest book, "My Time: How to Make the Rest of Life, the Best of Life'' was co-authored with Mandy Fealy.

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46 Comments

Some sound advice there Joan.

Here's a collection of very cool photos from Slate showing women at work around the world. Work looks very different depending on which country you live in.

I love the one of the photo researcher in Paris breastfeeding

http://todayspictures.slate.com/20080318/

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I very good piece of work, I can't find fault with any of your advice.

Don’t get ulcers climbing molehills but pick the hills to die on. Many women in the workplace seem to have ‘issues’ – with just about everything. This is very tedious for your colleagues, not to mention a distraction from the real work in hand. 

Ultimately, it makes you very high maintenance and just too hard to do business with. At the same time, don't be a wimp. Choose your fights well and be seen to stand for the things that really matter in your field. Do you do marriage counseling also. Lol.

You are right in that women with a chip on their shoulder can be tiresome. Chill out and relax at bit, the world isn't against you, it is neutral.

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Well anyone with a chip on their shoulder is tiresome, gender has little to do with it IMHO.

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Oh I do agree, just kept it in terms of the article.

I guess it is the type of chipe and the way it is expressed that is different.

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In my experience with women I know that have been successful both at Corporate level and as Enterpreners...I have found them to have common threads...aside from work ethics and ability to remain focused....I have found they have an ability to not percieve things ..too personally..not be distracted by moments of personality clash....a switching off if you like of some part of their emotive response mechanism.. aware it often impedes progress ...

 I think you'll find it applies to both sexes...but, by that I mean successful based on merit not cronyism.

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I would agree.  You won't find these high achievers moaning in the bathroom about this that and other thing. They're getting on with business and pushing past pettiness. Same goes with successful men too. Leaders have common threads, regardless of gender. Still, women are examined more closely, I believe.

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Can I add that men and women are not exactly the same so be very careful about what you choose as your goals for 'success'.

Our culture values fame, pride, money and what it percieves as power above humility, trust, faithfulness and real love.  At the time trading trust for money might look like the right thing to get ahead, but everything planted in live has it's own particular fruit.

Great article.

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 Women: A woman makes a list of things she needs, then goes out to the store and buys those things.

Men: A man waits till the only items left in his fridge are half a lime and a beer. Then he goes grocery shopping. He buys everything that looks good. By the time a man reaches the checkout counter, his cart is packed tighter than the Clampett's car on Beverly Hillbillies. Of course, this will not stop him from going to the express lane.

-- we are just useless bricks- after all. With more women in high positions the world would be a better place.

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Absolute bollocking nonsense , Walter ...... ole Gummy makes up a shopping list  every bit as good as a woman does . I rip into the supermarket , list in fevered little sticky fingers , ready for the fray .....

..... then I get to the liquor section of the supermarket , which is conveniently placed near the store's entrance .......

And I notice that I'd omitted " beer " from my Gummy grocery list . So I get some beer ,....  and biff out the list ( obviously it had serious errors & omissions ) ...

... t'would be stupid to carry on shopping with a faulty list , wouldn't it ! ... I'm no ordinary  fool .

Head home with beer ( quite alot of it , as there's nothing in the fridge , lotsa room there ) , and think about draft # 2 of the shopping list ... hic !

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One wonders why the fingers were sticky.....

on second thoughts we don't want to know.

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Ah Kunst...where's my hero sticker book? :) You remind me of an old journo prof I had at Carleton U.

He said he couldn't wait for the day. Of course, no end of gals queuing at his door for friendly chats.

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How many chances four and five. Look what's happening in private life's.

 Guys just stick together - are often lazy and underperforming in their jobs – have a look into politics – covering up each other arses.

Why in this country can politicians (ministers) investigate economic and political failures, planned and executed by their creators ?

Such corrupt developments would not exist with women in charge.

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Complete nonsense, sorry. I put forward that Hilary Clinton, Condoleesa Rice, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir as just the sort of people we don't want in charge. Incompetence, madness and corruption afflict women in power too.

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 No doubt about that Roger – but end of the day the world definitely needs more women in high places. The reality is, even in today’s world women have to work much harder to achieve these positions – unfortunately.

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... in case you've forgotten , we had a woman in charge of NZ , one Jenny Shipley .... and we followed her with 9 years of Helen Clark ......

And lest your memory is being comefuddled by the mammary , Walter , I don't think that they left NZ any better than a male PM would have .

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Kunst - that's not right at all - see my post further down on this. 

 

Your statement " Such corrupt developments would not exist with women in charge"

 

Ouch......that's damn harsh on men. I have worked in male dominated industries most of my life and I certainly haven't found what you have stated to be true.

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But Ivan, surely you would agree; you can't put every man and woman into the same gender stereotype box?:) We are all individuals.

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 Have a read with all those mad comments above and I'm sure soon below too - another tick for a great comment Amanda.

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Crawler  ! ... I think that you are Kunst struck , Walter .

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....and Amanda have a look how the guys are ticking each other – just corrupt, drunken  riffraff’s. Where is David B ?

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Kunst, have you been getting into the moldy cheese again? We've already told you to lay off it. It puts your yodeling right off key, mate. Makes you sound like a castrato.

By the way, I remember reading some analysis once that if you have a women Prime Minister, President or Queen, your nation is more likely to go to war. So what do you think might be saying?

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Very witty, gummy, and I think you've hit the nail on the head. In my experience men who seem to idolise women in that way fall very much into that category. Women make these men feel better; much like booze does to a drunk. Personally I prefer men and women who can just get on with the damn job without too many of their psychosexual hang-ups, Orpheus complexes et.el., getting in the way. Fortunately in my experience most can, which makes it all the more jarring when you actually do encounter someone who can’t or won’t. Like a certain professor I know at the University of Auckland who just loves women, so much so that I’m surprised he hasn’t had a sex change to make himself into one. All the people in his team are women and almost all the students he has supervised over a career spanning decades are female. Male colleagues avoid working with him because he’s just extremely difficult to work with and in the end they just can’t be bothered. Imagine a bloke like that running your business!

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  David in full action - wow – you are the manly man - what an eptic performance – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3OJOGxy21k

not just like the professor of the Auckland university, who is very difficult to work with, because he loves women so much he almost had a sex change.

Another great story of your moldy cooking book David.

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I've never had a female boss but I'm not surprised when you say that men tend to be more lenient. I put it down to women having higher standards.

Personnally if there's one thing I don't like it is someone who can't do their job properly, and doesn't make the effort to even try. It doesn't go down too well with me (another thing I hate is wasting my time) and I'm not afraid to make it clear. So in our business, if we have to do the "good cop, bad cop" thing I'm definitely the bad cop cos hubby is way too nice.

It may not earn friends but after all the idea is to get results, not be the most popular girl in town... Hubby sometimes jokes that the people I, hmmm, "told off" probably didn't expect this from me (I'm not particularly scary at first sight, and in fact I am a very nice person, no seriously I meant it...just tough in business according to some).

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I've never had a female boss ....Well gees Elley you've never been married to one then, or driven in a car, or tried to watch footy, or wanted to stay cause the party was just getting started......or bla bla bla.....

Whether or not their the boss is always in question, but I'm certainly not asking her to find out.....{ : > (

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Christov - lmho.

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Interesting. I guess my only advice is the classic "Pick your fights". Also phrased as "Don't start something you can't finish".  Meaning, choose whether a battle has any value or whether you are just being drawn into someone else's nonsense.

Also men and women are different. Usually if something is bothering me it causes me to be argumentative about everything, so I try to keep myself to myself at such times. These times are actually my most creative as I'm absorbed by a real problem.and when the cloud lifts I am able to make progress with something important. The worst thing you can do at these times is try to draw me into trivial conversations. I want to keep with the problem, not talk about what seems like trivia or like flitting from subject to subject in a mindless birdlike manner.  Another time these might be interesting subjects for a pleasant conversation. Men seem to understand this, but women often do not. 

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Maybe ...this is what Walter is talking about..

 

A HUSBAND IS AT HOME WATCHING A   FOOTBALL GAME WHEN HIS WIFE INTERRUPTS,  HONEY,    COULD YOU  FIX THE LIGHT IN THE HALLWAY?  IT'S BEEN FLICKERING FOR WEEKS NOW.       HE LOOKS AT HER AND SAYS ANGRILY,  FIX THE LIGHTS NOW?  DOES  IT LOOK LIKE I HAVE  ENERGEX WRITTEN ON MY FOREHEAD? I DON'T THINK  SO.    FINE,       THEN THE WIFE ASKS,  WELL THEN, COULD YOU FIX  THE FRIDGE DOOR?  IT WON'T CLOSE RIGHT     TO WHICH HE REPLIED, FIX THE FRIDGE DOOR?  DOES IT LOOK LIKE I HAVE WESTINGHOUSE  WRITTEN ON MY FOREHEAD?  I DON'T THINK SO    FINE, SHE SAYS   THEN YOU COULD AT LEAST FIX THE STEPS  TO THE FRONT DOOR?  THEY  ARE ABOUT TO BREAK     I'M NOT A CARPENTER AND I DON'T  WANT TO FIX  STEPS HE SAYS, DOES IT LOOK LIKE I HAVE  BUNNINGS WRITTEN ON MY  FOREHEAD?  I DON'T THINK SO  I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU.  I'M GOING  TO THE PUB!!!!     SO HE GOES TO THE PUB AND DRINKS FOR A  COUPLE  OF HOURS...............................  HE STARTS TO FEEL GUILTY  ABOUT HOW  HE TREATED HIS WIFE, AND DECIDES  TO GO HOME     AS  HE WALKS INTO THE HOUSE HE NOTICES  THAT THE STEPS ARE ALREADY FIXED.     AS HE ENTERS THE HOUSE , HE SEES THE  HALL LIGHT IS WORKING  AS HE GOES TO GET A BEER, HE NOTICES  THE FRIDGE DOOR IS FIXED.     HONEY, HE ASKS, HOW'D ALL THIS GET FIXED?   SHE SAID, WELL, WHEN  YOU LEFT I SAT  OUTSIDE AND CRIED.    JUST THEN A NICE YOUNG MAN  ASKED ME  WHAT WAS WRONG, AND I TOLD HIM.    HE OFFERED TO DO ALL  THE REPAIRS, AND  ALL I HAD TO DO WAS EITHER  GO TO BED WITH HIM OR  BAKE A CAKE.    HE SAID,    SO WHAT KIND OF CAKE DID YOU BAKE?   SHE REPLIED,    HELLOOOOO..??    DO YOU SEE SARA LEE WRITTEN  ON MY FOREHEAD?    I  DON'T THINK SO! 
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Lol! That's a cracker!!!!!

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Ah, ah, hilarious!

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Gee I think we will have to put Christov in front of the firing squad for being a traitor.

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Amanda - I'm sure you can help me out here - with a clever "forehead" - answer.

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Ahhhh, I best stay outta this thread before it degenerates. Leave the one upmanship to you boys. You do a good job of that lads.

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 A clever, diplomatic answer – different from us guys – machos.

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Nonsense Kunst. The boys are just playing, as they do. Celia Lashlie did a study on this at  Neslon College - at lunchtime hundreds of games spontaneously erupted;  whereas at Nelson College for girls hundreds of conversations started, but no games.

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The other day, I asked a question to my two 1/2 year old boy. He can speak perfectly well (and in 2 languages!) but replied with some sort of grunt instead. My four-year-old boy decided to jump in and helpfully advised me "Mum, "hhhhuuhhhh" means no and "hhhuuuhhhhuuuuhhh" means yes. He said no". I guess he learnt that from his dad :P

Based on this anecdote, I think that maybe, just maybe, men could actually use a little more conversational skills...

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Tres amusant Elley. Est ce que tu parles Francais ausie? Les jouer commence maintenant:}

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Oui, we speak French at home as we are both French (with NZ citizenship). The kids speak French at home and English elsewhere. They are fluent although more comfortable writing/reading in English and apparently have a perfect Kiwi accent (lucky them!).

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 Roger check your words you are using and you find out - not more then "male propaganda"

hhuuuhuuhuu !

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HEY...speak for yourself  Walter..I aint no Mexican...an I'll reep the head of anyone hoo says I ees.....comprende senor...?

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Grunt

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Ok, ive got five daughters and a wife, Im more in the dark than ever. My daughter in the USA needs  few k to fix the car, one needs  6k of braces,next needs some emotional support, where have all the men gone, why is it always dad? I only married for the sex.

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One word: karma.

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well it started out as two words; but the Sutra up n did a runner.

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Thankfully there is some humour in here. Females have a damn great life in the 2000's - all the women who have been before you paved the way.  Most men I know see women as equals in the workforce and value their contribution and believe me it wasn't always this way. Men have adapted and in fact many of the younger males take a far bigger role with children and household duties than what some of the women do. 

 

Women did have to be strong, stoney-faced and uncompromising to get recognised equally and we pretty much have that now. Some men of the older generations didn't like this female competition and resisted strongly to the conept of equality in employment etc but that generation/attitude has pretty much gone nowadays.

 

Being a female who has worked and lived my entire life in male dominated industries I have had nothing but support and encouragement at all levels from male collegues. Yes the odd male could be an ass but so can the odd female. It's nothing to do with gender - it is more to do with their emotional states.

 

Over the years I have always preferred working with men - you can have a disagreement with them over an issue and they tend to stick to the issue, disagree and move on, where women have generally had the tendency to let the issue roll into the next issue always adding fuel and keeping the fire lit.  Women have improved in this area the same as men have improved in accepting females as equals in the work force.

 

Female bad attitudes do exist particularly in the Public service area. Private sector females have long ago adapted and improved/corrected their attitudes. There will always be some exceptions on either side of this spectrum.

 

Joan Baker offers some pretty good advice for women.  However many younger males are now becoming the new martyrs, many young professional women are taking advantage and not being the net-contributors in both work and private life.

 

 

 

 

 

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A good article Joan. I have 4 staff. 3 women and 1 bloke. The bloke is all boof and bluster. Thick as pigpoo. The older women are treasures. Hardworking and loyal. The younger one needs a good kick up the whoopsy, by crikey she is frustrating, dunno that that one will make the grade. Just been out to feed them. They enjoy their tux with a raw egg.

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