Read an Excerpt
—PAT HEIM, PHD
PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA,
—SUSAN K. GOLANT, MA,
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, JUNE 2014
It ain’t over yet!
When we first wrote Hardball for Women: Winning at the Game of Business in 1991 and then revised it in 2004, we had high hopes that our message would reach men and women at work and that the road would be paved for female advancement in the workplace. And yes, many changes have taken place in the past twenty-five years as women crowd the ranks of middle management. But sadly, there still is a dearth of females at the highest levels of leadership in companies and on boards. The real challenge is to move out of middle management. It’s the danger spot. Women can get there—yay! But getting there usually requires so much flexing to a male style, they become disgruntled, wear out, and eventually quit. And so they never make it to the upper echelons.
We know this from experience. A few years ago, Tammy facilitated a panel at an international pharmaceutical company. The all-male senior team was brought in to share tips for success with the top three hundred women in the organization. It’s easy to summarize their entire discussion in four words: “Behave like a man.” Here’s what the men advised:
• Be tough. Don’t ever look weak.
• Don’t get your feelings hurt.
• Speak your mind and dominate meetings.
• Don’t ever tell people what you’re not good at.
• Stop asking questions—give answers.
• Look and sound more confident.
• Work long hours.
• Promote yourself all the time.
Tammy noticed that the women in the audience had become tense. They looked frustrated and angry. They stopped focusing on what the leaders were saying and started turning aside, murmuring to their neighbors. What was going on? When it was her turn to take the floor, Tammy did her best to soften and rephrase some of the leaders’ comments and make sense of the disparate gender cultures for the audience. But at the end of the day, after talking with the attendees and listening to them during coffee breaks, it was clear that the damage had been done.
These women heard that there was a spot for them at the top if only they’d stop operating out of their natural strengths . . . pretty much altogether. And that put them in a terrible double bind. When women are assertive in the ways this senior male team suggested, they are perceived as effective leaders but lacking in interpersonal skills. But if they are more collaborative (the expected feminine style), they are perceived as too soft and lacking in leadership behaviors. A difficult message indeed. And so, our Hardball work is still cut out for us. Women need to learn the rules of hardball so they can win at work.
There is a notable gap in how men and women regard the gender diversity problem. Men are much more likely than women to disagree that female executives face more difficulties in reaching top management. And men see less value in diversity initiatives that could correct the gender imbalance. According to gender consultant and CEO of 20-First, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, most male business leaders are truly convinced that they work in a meritocracy, in which everyone rises commensurate with his or her ability and contributions. And most male managers have no idea how male-normed today’s corporate cultures, management mind-sets, and policy processes still are. There is a massive disconnect between an educational system that now produces 60 percent female college graduates and a business world that hasn’t yet figured out how to make the most of this talent pool.
It is of utmost importance that it does, however. Why? First of all, because it’s going to cost big if it doesn’t! The total price of replacing a senior manager can be three times that person’s salary. According to some estimates, the cost of turnover for knowledge-based companies is even higher—a whopping 500 percent. Goldman Sachs calculates that increasing women’s participation to male levels in the labor market would boost GDP by 21 percent in Italy, 19 percent in Spain, 16 percent in Japan, and 9 percent in the U.S., France, and Germany.
That’s simple math. But the human costs are evident in the stories of the women we meet every day. Take, for instance, the story of Lara, a female engineer on an all-male team at a tech giant in Silicon Valley. After Tammy’s keynote at the Global Women’s Conference, Lara approached her and explained that more than a year earlier, her male manager had pulled her aside and said, “I want you to stop talking at my meetings altogether. You’re slowing down progress for all of us by asking questions and trying to talk through things too much. If you want to keep your job, you’d better start by being quiet.”
This was devastating to Lara, who had trained for years for her position in this prestigious company and who was the sole support of her two children. She couldn’t risk losing her good job, so she lived frustrated every day as she attended team meetings and never uttered a word. It was even more painful to her that none of the male peers on her team seemed to miss her voice or even try to draw her into their discussions. Lara had become a noncontributor, and that’s a loss not only for her personally but also for her team and company. How many other Laras are out there, struggling to survive while they squash their true natures? Who would fault them for jumping ship at the earliest opportunity?
If men can be brought to understand the tension of the double bind for women (“be a woman but act like a man—but not too much, or you’ll be judged a bitch”), we can all manage female advancement better. One of our intentions with this book is not only to teach women men’s ways but also to help men understand how life is different in the female culture, so they can read their female colleagues more accurately.
LET’S LOOK AT SOME HARD NUMBERS
These anecdotal stories we’ve gathered are not isolated cases of discriminatory behavior. Rather, they are supported by disturbing data. Developmental studies of boys and girls show that children of both sexes have the same desires for achievement: Both wish for accomplishment requiring work or skills; both desire recognition and honor. But fast-forward twenty or more years and the reality looks different than expectations.
In 1966, only 2 percent of women received BAs in business and management. Today, 40 percent of business degrees go to women. Women have long accounted for approximately half of the professional and managerial labor force in the U.S., but only 3 percent of the bosses in Fortune 500 companies and 5 percent in the FTSE 100 Index are women. Harvard business professor Myra Hart found that 62 percent of the Harvard Business School’s female graduates with more than one child were either not working or working part-time just five years after graduation. Others have found that ten years after graduating, only about half the female MBAs who chose to have children remain in the labor force.
On March 25, 2014, the new U.S. secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, noted that women are still underrepresented “at the highest levels in academia, in government, and in business.” Here are some statistics that you may find disturbing:
• According to the findings of the 2013 Catalyst Census of Fortune 500 women board directors, women held only 16.9 percent of board seats. Less than one-fifth of companies had 25 percent or more female directors, while one-tenth had no women on their boards at all. Women of color fared much worse, holding only 3.2 percent of board seats.
• While women have represented approximately 40 percent of law school graduates since the mid-1980s, less than 20 percent have made partner.
• Women made up 49 percent of medical school graduates in 2008, yet less than 30 percent of physicians are female. In academic medicine, women account for one-third of the faculty, yet they are only 17 percent of the full professors and 12 percent of department chairs.
• In 2010, women in government represented 17 percent of the Senate and House seats and approximately 25 percent of the members of state legislatures.
• Seventy-two percent of women in the U.S. perceive bias in their performance evaluations.
• Forty-four percent report feeling they were being judged against male leadership standards and asked to walk the tricky line between aggressiveness and assertiveness that can often derail careers.
• Even in typically female-dominated professions such as social work and nursing, men move up more quickly than their women colleagues.
What happens to the grand ambitions of girlhood? Why have they been quashed? Many reasons come to mind. Differences between the sexes can mean that women either don’t seek high-risk jobs or don’t perform in them as well as men do. Why not? For one thing, discrimination still exists—sexism is alive and well in some workplaces. And even though formal barriers to women’s advancement have been abolished, unconscious biases and the many culture clashes we outline throughout this book may continue to interfere with women’s promotions, awards, and honors.
Another issue—which we hadn’t considered in earlier editions of this book—is simple biology. In the past decade, new brain research has taught us much about the role of testosterone in men and the biology of gender behaviors. This is important, because when Pat first started in this field in the mid-’80s, gender scholars assumed our differing behaviors were due solely to how boys and girls were socialized—what youngsters learned at home, on the playground, and at school. They didn’t realize that some of the differences (such as risk taking and risk aversion) were physiologically based. Therefore, it was easy to say that women just needed to change their behavior and become more like men to advance their careers. We now know it’s far more complicated than that.
Because some behavior is prewired, it becomes even more imperative to understand and value the differences between men and women rather than to think that we can change human nature. If both genders are unaware that this is in large part how we’re built, then it’s easy to get irritated, to think the other gender is doing it wrong, or to disrespect them for screwing up.
So in this book, we’re asking women not to abandon their strengths but rather to understand them and how they interface with a more masculine way of behaving. And we’re asking men not to behave like women but rather to understand and value their female colleagues’ mind-set in order to work together more effectively and with less conflict.
WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT
In Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg makes the point that conditions for all women will improve “when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns. This brings us to the obvious question—how?”
Yes, how indeed. How do we get more women in leadership positions? We believe we have the solution.
The first step is to acknowledge that men and women do live in different worlds. When you judge coworkers of another gender by your own rules, you can misinterpret and see unkindness when none was intended.
The best way out of this miasma is to learn about the differences and then talk about them. As long as they are invisible and unaddressed, these disjunctures can never be fully rectified. The information you will glean from this book will help you decide when to flex and act like a man if you have to, when to use your new knowledge to understand behaviors that might have baffled you before, and when you can rely on your female strengths to get the job done. We will teach you what it means to be a “team player” in the male world. We will help you become the leader you want to be. But if you don’t know what the game is, if you don’t know the rules of hardball, you’ve lost before you’ve begun.
Since the mid-1980s (what seems like the Stone Age to us now!), Pat Heim has been conducting workshops and lectures on gender differences at companies around the world. Twenty years ago, Tammy Hughes joined her in that endeavor, delivering workshops and keynote addresses to multinational corporations. We are happy to include Tammy’s expertise, experience, and fresh voice in these pages.
We’ve updated all of the research to include the latest information and statistics available. We’ve made sure to address the concerns of women who might have already assimilated some hardball rules—albeit still from a female perspective. And, as mentioned earlier, we’ve included, where appropriate, a discussion of the biological underpinnings of some male and female behaviors to underscore that the disconnect we encounter is not all based on social learning.
Many of the stories in this third edition of Hardball are derived from our work consulting with and instructing organizations (both the leadership and their rank-and-file employees) around the globe. We’ve added some new material from the growing high-tech world and revisited every word and concept in the book to make sure it’s relevant for today’s women—for example, addressing how they can protect themselves on social networking sites. We revisited our discussion about dressing for success and replaced it with more current data and practices based on what women do today. We also included a whole section on confidence at the end of our leadership chapter—why women lack it (even those at the top of the heap) and what they can do about it. And we touch briefly on how to teach children about gender issues so that these problems may extinguish themselves over the next generation.
Finally, we wrote a chapter directed at the heads of corporations, explaining to them how and why they suffer financially when they exclude women from the ranks of their leaders, how to get and hold on to their female talent, and the real reasons women quit their jobs (hint: it’s not to stay home with their kids).
Societal changes are long and hard in coming. Over the years, we’ve watched as women have made some great strides, but it ain’t over yet! Female advancement cannot be dismissed as a merely a “women’s issue.” Corporations won’t make deep levels of change without men on board who understand what they’re losing when they don’t advance their most talented women. Yes, organizations need men to champion awareness and understanding of both gender cultures. Lacking that, crucial changes may never occur, and intelligent, committed women will continue to leave the corporate world.
This book has evolved over the past twenty-five years to address female advancement and leadership. We have identified that the real challenge today is getting into senior positions and onto boards. You still have to pick your way through the minefield of middle management to get there. Hardball for Women will teach you how to identify the lay of the land and then make smart choices. It will give you specific steps so that you will understand when to depend on your female skills and when to adapt to or at least comprehend the male culture. It will help you avoid the typical mid-level burnout scenario that we’ve seen time and time again. We don’t want you to become disgruntled, wear out, and eventually quit. We want you to win at the game of business and thrive!
THE GAME OF BUSINESS
It was past 7:30 P.M. but the computer screen at Emily’s desk still flashed numbers, and her mind raced to complete her project—on time and within budget, as always. A crackerjack software developer and supervisor, Emily prided herself on her top-notch technical skills. She worked harder and longer than any of her peers. She got along well with colleagues, made constructive suggestions, and supervised the most productive employees in her division, by far. In fact, as a manager, she was flawless in terms of output.
Yet despite her consistently superior performance, Emily got passed over time and again for promotions. Finally, she sought our help. Her voice tight with anger, she explained her predicament: “I’m ignored for promotions in favor of men who are not nearly as productive or hardworking as I am. Why? When I ask my boss for feedback, he tells me I’m doing ‘just fine’—whatever that means. Besides, I don’t feel ‘just fine.’ I’m miserable and frustrated in a dead-end position, and I’m truly mystified about why I can’t seem to move forward.”
In leading thousands of workshops with businesswomen ranging from supervisors to managers to senior executives throughout the United States, we have heard Emily’s lament over and over again: “I’m a technical ace. I work harder than anyone else. I’m highly respected by my peers. Why have I been passed over . . . laid off . . . overlooked? Why can’t I be as successful as the men in my company?”
These questions have been asked repeatedly for the past fifty years—ever since the women’s movement of the 1960s and ’70s began to encourage female students, housewives, and workers to pursue careers that would challenge their intellect and reward their efforts on a par with men. In record numbers, women traded their dresses for power suits, doubled their overtime, and delayed having children. The phrase glass ceiling didn’t exist back then, and they figured by the 1990s they’d be set. Meanwhile, young women entering the workforce in the new millennium assume that the playing field is level, that their contributions will be justly rewarded, their achievements gratefully acknowledged. Clearly they are mistaken.
What went wrong? Why, after more than five decades of raised consciousness and affirmative action, are women still struggling to achieve parity with their male coworkers? Consider Allison, the regional sales manager for a national furniture manufacturing company. Like Emily, she is a master at management. Her region has the highest sales in the corporation. As the most senior and productive member of the sales team, she is in a position to move up in the company. Instead, she finds herself cut out of memos and meetings.
In talking with her supervisor about her performance, she was told, “Allison, you do your job well but you’re too scattered.”
“What does that mean?” she demanded.
“Well,” her boss continued, “you do too many things at once. You’re just not focused enough.”
Although Allison perceived her ability to juggle many projects as an asset—especially since she was successful at it—her boss didn’t concur. In fact, he gave a plum promotion to a less efficient man who was, by the way, his friend, but was less productive.
Jennifer’s progress was also impeded. A brilliant aerospace engineer, she headed a team of five men at a prestigious southern space exploration laboratory. Her group was put in charge of testing a newly launched satellite system. Jennifer’s approach to management was highly collaborative. Rather than simply barking out orders, she would ask her employees for input and feedback in order to make decisions. Her male colleagues perceived this as weak. Before long, she discovered her staff had gone behind her back to her supervisor, Tom, to ask questions. Consequently, he lost faith in Jennifer’s leadership abilities and slowly diminished her responsibilities until she was shut out of the position entirely.
Ashley also found herself at an impasse. As the chief nursing officer for a large midwestern hospital, she was responsible for 60 percent of the institution’s employees and budget. She was proud of her performance: She had managed to cut costs and increase patient satisfaction, as documented on patient surveys. Because of her fine record, Ashley applied for the position of operations officer. In fact, she sought the position on three separate occasions, and each time she was passed over in favor of a younger, less experienced man. When Ashley asked why she hadn’t won the position, she was told, “You’re not ready yet.” This, despite the fact that she already ran virtually half the hospital.
Why were these women still stymied in their efforts to move ahead? Most likely because the majority of women in the business world today are oblivious to the fact that they are standing on a playing field while a game is being played around them. The men they work with are using their own set of rules. Their sport is rough-and-tumble and aggressive. Players are expected to be bloodied when they take risks and put themselves on the line.
Unfortunately, without understanding the culture of men, you will remain sidelined like Emily, Allison, Jennifer, and Ashley. Until you realize that business is conducted as a sport—and a game of hardball, at that—you’ll never move ahead and you’ll never win.
WARMING THE BENCH
Ironically, women who entered the workforce en masse in the mid-1970s were perhaps more aware than we are today of the extent to which male coworkers operate in a rarefied business culture. Then, women were up against huge and obvious hurdles such as discriminatory laws, exclusive clubs, and other culturally sanctioned trappings of the old-boy network.
But since women were consumed by these larger issues, they never mastered the subtleties of communicating with men—even while they recognized the dilemma. Indeed, they tried to break into the private club and to understand male language, but many of these early efforts fell short. Too many women tried to copy men without understanding the basic differences in male and female culture—differences that will be revealed in this book. Sometimes the approach women used was too rigid, even hostile, rather than sportsmanlike. Other women felt they could legislate their way into the workforce and then succeed on merit alone, ignoring the politics and gamesmanship inherent in the business world.
Betty Lehan Harragan’s classic Games Mother Never Taught You, written in 1978, clued women in to the fact that there was a different game going on, one that they were unaware of. But most of Harragan’s suggestions smacked of “do it like the men do.” During the 1980s, with more women in the workplace, a false sense of progress set in. Soon, however, the glass ceiling became apparent, and women began to realize that they still weren’t playing in the big leagues.
In the 1990s, women were making some advancements, but many were still frustrated that they didn’t have parity with men; they were warming the benches but not getting to bat.
In the 2000s, organizations became aware that the ranks of female executives in their companies had flatlined. The pipeline of women moving up was leaking as women fled middle-management positions to start their own businesses, work for the competition, or become stay-at-home moms. Often in addition to this mid-level loss, high-potential women who were being groomed for executive positions were also heading for the door. These departures were a cause for great concern because they affected the bottom line, representing an investment loss for each company. Organizations began feeling pressure to do something about their lack of female executives.
These problems have not evaporated today. Although there have been solid gains in middle management, only 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs. And research from the Harvard Business Review shows that 56 percent of women in technology leave by mid-career—double the attrition rate for men.
The truth is, women moving up the corporate ladder often feel caught in a double bind. This became more apparent to us when we were consulted to do third-party exit interviews for the South American affiliates of an international consumer goods company. Their executive team knew they had a problem: They were losing female middle managers. But what made this exodus more concerning was that most of these employees were their high-potential hires. Tammy interviewed more than thirty high-potential women who had left the organization over the previous year. Her task was to learn what she could about why they had left this company.
Four key factors emerged in every interview:
1. There were no good role models at the top.
2. Women in senior positions were expected to behave like men.
3. The “anytime/anywhere” model that this corporation embraced wouldn’t work for their lives.
4. Relocation was expected every two years. They couldn’t tolerate dismantling their lives, uprooting their children, expecting their partners to find new employment with such frequency.
Even though these were Latin American women, their responses were consistent with what we’ve encountered in the U.S. and all around the globe as well as what the research tells us.
In this book we aim to address why.
To start, when women advance, they realize that their potential success hinges on an unconscious requirement that they behave like a man, which takes a lot of energy. This is essentially saying, “Use your nondominant hand.” Yes, you can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of effort, and you won’t do the work as well. We want you to understand the system first; then you can make the choices as to whether you should behave like a man, because there are times when it will be critical for your success to do so.
The real issue lies in women’s misperceptions about the rules governing business. When individuals enter the workforce, initially they are rewarded for technical skill. Often, women move up with good performance appraisals at this early stage. But many hit a period during their late twenties and early thirties when feedback suddenly turns negative. Ceasing to do well in their boss’s eyes, they get such vague feedback as, “You’re not being a team player.” Most women fail to realize that employees are judged on interpersonal and not technical skills as they progress in their careers. And interpersonal skills often rise and fall on the nuances of male and female cultural differences.
Today, if you’re a woman in any type of career, from high tech to high finance, from manufacturing to medicine, from aerospace to architecture, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in one of these baffling and infuriating situations:
• You’re more productive and successful than your male peer, but suddenly you find yourself reporting to him.
• Your boss becomes irritated when you make helpful suggestions.
• Your female colleagues are first to attack when you win a big promotion.
• You’ve sought the input of your employees in order to make a decision, only to be criticized for not being a leader.
• You feel angry with yourself for having given in to a bully.
• Your valuable input goes unacknowledged during important meetings, yet when a male colleague makes the same point, he receives accolades.
• You don’t know how to work with people you dislike, and you can’t understand how your male associates are at one another’s throats by day but drinking buddies by night.
• You try to cooperate, only to discover the most underhanded staff member gets the recognition you deserve.
• You’ve been caught off guard by a colleague who brutally attacks your ideas at a meeting, and then he tells you, “You shouldn’t take it so hard,” as the two of you walk out.
• You wonder what men really mean when they tell you to be a “team player.”
Hardball for Women will help you resolve these dilemmas and get you off the bench so you can play with the big boys.
HOW WE SLIPPED INTO THE LOCKER ROOM
For more than three decades Pat watched women struggle with gender-related business crises, from minor misunderstandings to career-threatening lapses in communication. In that time, she developed a strategy that enables women to flourish in the workplace while remaining true to their inner selves. Time and again, she saw that once women understand the male culture of business, they can thrive in it, enjoy it, and achieve great success.
In 1977, Pat received her PhD in communication from the University of Colorado and became a professor of communication at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles. Two years later, she became a communication consultant for corporations. Her interest in the gender component of business began while she was working as a management-development specialist at the headquarters of a national health-care organization. She found herself one day at a high-level meeting. She can’t remember why she was there, because she certainly wasn’t high level, but she’d been invited nonetheless. During this meeting, two male executives began to viciously attack each other. Her stomach began to churn. She remembers wanting to stand up and shout, “You both have a point!” or to duck under the table because it was just so upsetting to witness. Eventually the meeting adjourned. Those two combatants walked out of the room in front of her. One turned to the other and said in a friendly voice, “Wanna get a beer?”
Pat was shocked. She couldn’t imagine how they could switch gears so quickly or would ever speak to each other in a civil tone again. She realized that there was something about their world that differed from hers, and she worked in their world. To survive, she had to understand their rules. So she started reading all the research she could find about gender differences in the workplace. And one day, maybe six months later, she began putting that information to good use. A woman director at that company asked Pat to conduct a communication workshop for her managers; she was having problems in her unit.
“What seems to be the trouble?” Pat asked.
“My boss, Ron, says my managers are poor communicators. He’s critical because they want to involve everyone in decisions they make,” Carrie explained. “He says they never seem to get to the point and they’re so darned sensitive about negative feedback.”
Based on the research Pat had been doing, she knew that the employees Carrie referred to were all women, and she voiced that perception.
“How did you figure that out?” Carrie responded, dumbfounded.
Pat had read enough about gender differences to recognize that men and women face different problems in the workplace. At that moment, she decided to create a workshop to help women in their business communications. The next time the opportunity arose to work with a group of female managers, she focused solely on the rules of hardball and cultural gender differences. The ideas she presented clicked with the participants, and many went on to become highly successful in their fields.
In 1985, Pat left her corporate position to become a private management development and communication consultant. She has worked with CEOs, boards of directors, managers, and supervisors in many fields, including manufacturing, health care, pharmaceuticals, finance, the energy industry, engineering, and government, in companies such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, British Petroleum, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, IBM, Xerox, and Sony. She has spoken to more than one hundred groups a year for the past thirty years.
As an outside consultant—a hired gun, so to speak—Pat has been privy to information she would never hear were she an employee of a company. When a corporate vice president is paying dearly for her services, he is unlikely to play political games or lie. And so she has become a “fly on the wall” in countless business meetings. As a result, she has experienced firsthand how frequently gender-based communication issues can stop a woman from the success she so richly deserves.
For her part, Tammy was born into a family with four much older brothers and older parents, so her need to understand the differences in genders and generations began in her childhood home. She worked for Xerox right out of college with mostly male teams. Her mentor was a gruff older man who took her into the proverbial locker room to give her the chance to understand how her propensity to behave in a female way could be damaging. When she started working with Pat in 1995, a whole new journey began that helped her understand how men and women behave differently in the workplace. Today she travels the world, delivering keynotes and executive sessions to leaders in companies such as Deutsche Telecom, ESPN, Novartis, Google, MassMutual, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Kellogg Company, Credit Suisse, and Clorox. And Tammy now lives with three men—her husband and two sons. As they talk at the dinner table, they are informants who continue to help her understand the world of men.
In this book, we’ve condensed the knowledge and techniques that have helped tens of thousands of women walk confidently into any business environment. But underscoring everything you read in these pages is a simple concept: Becoming “one of the guys” is not necessarily an adequate, comfortable, or feasible way to win the game of business. Understanding the guys is what it takes to triumph in their world.
WHY CAN’T A WOMAN BE MORE LIKE A MAN?
Women in business today walk an interesting tightrope. If they become the aggressive, no-nonsense, win-at-all-costs players that their male counterparts pride themselves on being, then they are labeled “bossy,” “obnoxious,” “overbearing,” “ambitious,” or “strident bitches” who are “just mouthing off,” and their input or achievements are summarily dismissed. If, on the other hand, they adhere to their feminine ways and continue to be passive, nurturant, and cooperative in the business setting, then they’re labeled “weak,” “overly sensitive,” and “unambitious,” and again, what they perceive as important contributions and successes are diminished. What a double bind!
How to get out of this bind? The solution lies in gaining a fuller understanding of the male culture in order to work well within it. We’re not advocating that women become more like men, but rather that by understanding the culture of men they can better navigate to the top.
Think of it this way: If you were suddenly plunked down in the middle of Japan, you would find certain customs familiar, but others quite foreign. In order to fit in and do well in Japanese society, you might try to behave in part as the Japanese do. You might feel willing to adapt to or at least earnestly try to understand that culture. On the other hand, some customs would likely feel unacceptable, and so you would sidestep them, and further refuse to surrender certain habits that are fundamental to your sense of self.
The same is true in the world of business. Since, for the moment, you work in the culture of men, you may have to make some accommodations in order to fit in. Your motivation? Once you learn the rules of hardball, you can eventually work your way to the top. And having acquired enough power and success, you may be able to call the shots and shape the future direction of your corporation so that it capitalizes on your own strengths.
It’s important to note that gender differences, and human behavior in general, are best depicted as a bell curve. The hitch is there are two tails to that bell curve. That is, there are always exceptions to how we humans behave. We’ve all met women who have more masculine qualities than other females and men who have more feminine traits than other males. Some argue that we shouldn’t talk about gender differences at all because it will only make it more difficult for us to work together. But we believe that pretending men and women are the same only damages women’s chances of succeeding and requires that they continue to adapt to the male culture of business. By pointing to the different ways men and women approach issues, as we do here, we legitimize alternative strategies. The message is that men and women often bring different approaches to problems, opportunities, and decisions. The more approaches available, the better the outcome for both individuals and business.
Besides, all women have a hidden masculine side to them (just as men have more feminine aspects that they rarely reveal). Reevaluating your behavior may be a question of connecting to parts of yourself you haven’t fully used in the workplace. Old cultural messages you’ve assimilated, like “good girls don’t brag,” or “be nice and get along,” may have held you back. But you can observe how men succeed and adopt their best strategies without losing your values.
Success is more than a pipe dream. When you learn the game of hardball, it can become a reality. But if we don’t talk about the differences, we can’t understand them. And the truth is, we can’t manage what we don’t understand.
We frequently get calls like the following from Stacy Miller, a participant in one of our workshops. Stacy is the president of a small textile manufacturing company. Shortly after attending our seminar, she became involved in a negotiation with the president and vice president of an international clothing corporation for the purchase of products her company manufactured. She suddenly found herself in the big leagues.
In our phone call following this negotiation, Stacy gushed with enthusiasm. “I did the things you talked about,” she explained excitedly. “When they began to attack me, I didn’t flinch or fidget. I kept my body open and didn’t smile to show my vulnerability. In fact, my face was stony during the negotiation. The president of the corporation tried to interrupt me, but I just continued talking as if he weren’t there. It was great!”
It really was great. For not only did Stacy clinch the deal, but the president of the international corporation called her boss, the chairman of the board, and said with respect and admiration, “That Ms. Miller, she’s something else. What a tough negotiator!” Stacy had learned to play hardball.
When men don’t understand the culture of women and, perhaps more important for our discussion, when women don’t understand the culture of men, they both place negative value judgments on behaviors they consider alien. What we must all appreciate is that our disparate approaches are not conscious choices but ways of perceiving reality instilled since childhood that have a strong basis in our biology. The goal of Hardball for Women is not necessarily to make you behave like a man, but rather to give you an opportunity to understand the “foreign” male culture so that you can make conscious choices that will open the door to greater success in the future.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at one of the most obvious elements of male business culture: the language.
THE SPORTSMANLIKE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS
An article in the entertainment section of the New York Times reminded us again of just how pervasively sports lingo permeates business perceptions and communications. In the article, Peter Tortorici, the former CBS executive vice president for programming—the person in charge of prime-time scheduling—referred to Wednesday night as “a jump ball: not dominated by one network.” According to reporter Bill Carter, Mr. Tortorici is “one of the players looking to grab the ball and run with it.” Now, there’s a sports idiom if we ever heard one.
If you have any doubt that business is conducted like a team sport, simply pay attention to words people use in describing business behavior. If your team gets to carry the ball, you’ll need a game strategy to score points with the coach or at least to make an end run around the opposition. You may position yourself as a player and hope that you’re not abandoned out in left field. When the ball is in your court, it’s time to step up to bat and compete to win. If they’re playing hardball, you’ll need a game plan just to get the ball rolling so you can get on first base. You may have to punt, pass the ball, touch base with other team players, or tackle the problem yourself. Your goal may be the whole nine yards, but be careful not to step out of bounds. If you’re a pro you’ll know when to take the offensive, but if you’re a rookie you may have to go to the mat, and if you lose or strike out you may have to throw in the towel; but if you win you can make it into the big leagues.
We could go on, but you get the idea. When we present the list of more than fifty sports expressions applicable to business transactions (there are more, such as par for the course, slam dunk, batting average, ball-park figure, sportsmanship, pinch hitter, and the most offensive, playing like a girl) during our “She Said/He Said” workshops, the response is universal. After the first ten or fifteen of such expressions, eyebrows are raised in surprise. After about twenty, some participants begin clapping in recognition. By the end of our experiment, the assembled crowd applauds in unison. They have had a moment of insight. Business is conducted by the rules of sports—the way boys play, not the way girls play.
In Chapter 2, we’ll take a closer look at the divergent biology and acculturation of men and women that contribute to these differences.
BUT GIRLS PLAY SPORTS NOW!
While large groups of little boys roam up and down the field, playing freewheeling games of cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, dodge ball, superheroes, soccer, and war—the aggressive game of hardball—girls tend to play intensely with one or two best friends, thoroughly engaged in make-believe: dolls or house or school, safe in their homes and backyards.
“Now, wait a darn minute,” you might be thinking. “I was a tomboy growing up. I competed with my older brother and his friends. I was on a soccer team and played varsity softball in high school. Didn’t I learn the rules of hardball too?”
Indeed, the most common question posed to us lately when we talk about the different cultures of men and women is “Now that girls play sports, doesn’t that change the dynamics?”
Indeed, research has shown us that there are some work-related benefits for women who have played college-level sports. They tend to play well on teams and handle criticism better. So to answer this important question, Pat went to Anson Dorrance, the coach of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team since 1983. His are some of the most successful teams in the history of the sport: Anson has won more than 90 percent of UNC’s games, groomed far more all-Americans, and captured more NCAA championships than any other coach in the sport ten times over. Many of the greatest players in women’s soccer, including Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, came out of UNC and played for him at the World Cup. Pat asked Anson during an interview if he found differences in coaching women as compared to men.
“There are so many differences, I don’t know where to begin,” he replied. “The core is the kind of relationship you establish with your athletes. One of the critical aspects in motivating, training, and leading men is that you have to be strong. Men respond to strength, and a part of your capacity to ultimately lead in men’s athletics is a capacity for you to demonstrate this strength. Some male coaches do this by being physically, psychologically, or verbally intimidating.
“Women aren’t led by that. In fact, if you try to lead that way athletically you actually end up intimidating them. It causes a loss of confidence and separation. Women respond to your humanity, so you lead women with your capacity to care and your capacity to relate. Connection with them is critical. They don’t want me to use speeches with words like ‘fury,’ and they don’t want me to raise my voice and get in their face. They want me to care about them. They want me to relate to them personally.”
Remember, these are not women who are out to have a good time on a Saturday afternoon. They are driven to win—and they do. But they do it in a very female way. However, other factors such as parental attitudes, television commercials, movies, teachers, peers, and even biology may have shaped their attitudes toward competition and work. Even former tomboys show up in our workshops because they are not enjoying business as usual. Whether at home, at school, or on the playground, women have been socialized to value relationships and equality.
And in the final analysis, when boys and girls grow up, they play business in much the same way they play as children: Men continue to see business as a team sport—aggressive hardball—while women perceive business as a series of separate personal encounters; they seek out cooperation and intimacy. To understand why so many women are frustrated in their attempts to advance in their careers today, let’s take a closer look at the lessons we learned during our differing play activities.
HOW TO BE A GIRL
In our culture, girls learn:
How to play one-on-one. For the most part, girls play with only one person, usually a best friend. As a result, they learn exceptional interpersonal skills, including how to “read” and respond to others’ emotions. Girls tend to have a best friend even on sports teams.
How to get along. Good little girls are sweet, calm, gentle, charming, mild, and helpful. Conflict, assertiveness, and direct confrontation are not only absent from play but are to be avoided at all costs. Instead, girls learn more indirect methods of dealing with dissension, such as involving a third party, dropping hints, or practicing avoidance in order to preserve relationships, their main focus.
How to be fair to everyone. Little girls try to resolve conflicts by compromising and being fair so that everyone wins.
How to be liked. The need to be liked is a strong dynamic among girls at play and is reinforced by their need to fit in. It’s a given that if you’re bossy, no one will like you. Anson Dorrance explained to Pat that the female friendship is a huge challenge because it creates a mixture of two volatile qualities: Women are incredibly demanding of each other and they’re incredibly sensitive. “The two mixed together are ‘death,’” he said. “Men are incredibly insensitive and not demanding, and that mixture is ‘life.’ I mean, it’s so easy for a men’s team to get along, because we couldn’t care less whether anyone else on the team likes us, and we couldn’t care less what they said or did because we’re not that sensitive.”
How to engage in play as a process. Girls’ games often don’t have a goal. We’ve never heard of a little girl winning a game of dolls, for instance. If there is a purpose at all, it’s to get along with one’s playmates, create intimacy, and share imaginative ideas. We’ll explain the significance of this issue more fully in Chapter 2.
How to negotiate differences. Decisions among girls are reached by group consensus. When several friends have different views about the best way to set up a dollhouse or at whose home to play dress-up, they learn to talk out their differences, take turns, and compromise. This format of negotiation has as its goal a win-win (as opposed to a win-lose) outcome.
How to keep the power dead even. Girls grow up in flat organizations rather than hierarchies. They learn to cooperate within this structure. Rather than having a coach or a top banana tell them what to do, girls cooperate in a web of relationships for the sake of preserving the friendship. It doesn’t take long for a little girl to discover that if she wants to be the leader and she starts pushing her playmates around, relationships will suffer; friends will call her bossy and avoid her. As a result, she tries to keep the power dead even.
Because of these lessons, girls learn how to be competent interpersonally and how to develop and sustain relationships with others. Boys, on the other hand, learn to subordinate relationships to aggressiveness, competition, and winning.
HOW TO BE A BOY
The lessons boys absorb help them succeed in the business setting. In Hardball for Women, you are going to learn what these lessons are. Some of these lessons you may wish to adopt or adapt to your own style; others may seem repugnant to you. In terms of personal behavior, each of us has a basic comfort level that we must acknowledge and respect. Yet even if you don’t want to emulate your male counterparts—and you don’t always have to—becoming conscious of masculine culture will help you understand how men reach judgments and decisions that may affect your life and your potential success. The key is to know which choices you have, rather than operating on automatic pilot. With awareness come power and the possibility to exercise new options.
Among the lessons boys learn are the following:
Always do what the coach says. Boys learn early that in order to win a competition, there must be a leader or coach who is at the top of the heap. This creates a structural hierarchy in which there is always someone above and someone below in status, rather than the flat organization so common among girls, in which the power is dead even. In order to move up within the hierarchy, boys learn to do what the coach says—period. See Chapter 3 for a discussion of how this applies to your position within your corporation.
Competition is the name of the game. All games that boys play involve adversarial relationships: us versus them. Boys learn that competition and conflict are stimulating and fun, to be embraced and not avoided. Boys also know that when the game is over, it’s over. A boy’s agenda during a game may be to cream the opposition, but after the fourth quarter, both teams can enjoy a pizza and ice cream. The fact that they tried to pulverize each other only an hour earlier has little impact on their relationship.
Business is also competitive between companies, within companies, among departments, and among peers. Chapter 4 will explore in more detail how you can develop a competitive edge.
How to be a good team player. Boys learn right off the bat that they won’t always get to be team captain or the coach and be able to tell others what to do. Rather, most often they will be in the position of receiving instructions. Good team members, therefore, give up their individuality and independence for the sake of the team. They recognize the importance of supporting the other players—it’s critical not to be a star when the situation requires one to take a supportive role. The reward comes when their loyalty allows the team to win. Then they can refer to the success as “their” win. Whereas girls cooperate to preserve relationships, boys may sacrifice themselves to the hierarchy for the sake of winning.
In being a team player, it’s also vital to know how to play with people you don’t like. Boys insist on having the meanest, roughest, toughest kid on their team because they realize that despite his personal shortcomings, this bully will help them achieve their goal of winning at all costs. Chapter 5 covers what it takes to be a good team member.
How to be a leader. Despite the team nature of play, from time to time boys do get to be team captain. That gives them the opportunity to take on authority. In practicing leadership, boys learn how to give orders and make them stick. In Chapter 6, you’ll learn those lessons too.
How to be aggressive or to posture aggressiveness. Boys learn that if you’re going to do well for your team and save your own hide, it’s important to look like a mean, aggressive player—even if you’re not feeling all that tough. In order to act aggressively, boys learn power plays: posture, facial expressions, verbal bantering, and other trappings of power. In truth, how you speak, present yourself, and are introduced all contribute to the illusion of power. In the game of business, if you don’t know how to do something, often the best idea is to fake it! Chapters 7 and 8 show you how.
How to take criticism and praise. Criticism and praise go hand in hand with losing and winning. While engaged in sports, boys receive constant criticism, primarily from the coach, but also from team members. As a result, they learn the connection between getting feedback and improving their performance. They also learn how to take criticism so it doesn’t damage their self-esteem and destroy their feelings of self-worth. In Chapter 9, you’ll learn ways to receive, respond to, and give criticism and praise that will help further your career.
How to stay focused on the goal. Rather than focusing on perfecting the details (as girls and women might), in team play boys set their sights on the goal line. If they make a mess in getting there or knock some people over, that’s part of the game. Boys learn early on that they can’t do everything perfectly, but perfection really doesn’t matter anyway, since winning is all that counts. Chapter 10 will help you find and stay focused on your own goals, be they within your current career or for future professional advancement.
Winning is all that matters. Boys have heard since time immemorial, “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” We have yet to find a man who actually believes this. Boys play games to win. So do men in business. From their perspective, there is no point in becoming involved in the game if you aren’t out to win. And to win, you must take risks. Playing it safe will never make your team number one.
In this regard, boys also learn that it pays to cheat. Whether it’s pitching a spitball, “facemasking” a football opponent, or fouling an opposing player in basketball, it’s never a question of whether to cheat but how to do it without getting caught.
Boys learn how to talk about a big win or a faked play so that it keeps on working for them. But even though winning is all, statistically about half the time boys lose. Rather than feeling devastated by the failure, however, boys are taught by the repeated experience of losing how to take a loss, learn from it, and move on. Chapter 11 explores hardball strategies for winning and losing.
How to have a game plan. Little boys play in crowds, not in dyads or triads as girls do. And so they need a strategy to organize such an unwieldy group of people. They follow the coach’s game plan. Anyone who plays soccer or football knows that when each player does what he alone thinks is best, independently of the others, the team will never move the ball to the other end of the field to score that coveted goal or touchdown. The same is true for business. Whether your purpose is to increase your department’s production, get a big promotion, or become an independent entrepreneur, you must have a strategy in place before you start making your moves. Chapter 12 gives you some pointers.
SCORING THAT GOAL
The truth is, since business has been run overwhelmingly by men until only recently, male culture permeates corporate life today. And men have simply transposed the rules of their childhood games onto their jobs as CEOs, managers, salesmen, supervisors, and entrepreneurs.
Female culture must be addressed, because women’s coping skills are functional and suit their own reality. It’s the aim of this book to render these mostly invisible cultural imperatives more opaque, so that professional and managerial women who find that their skills have little to do with opportunities for advancement can choose the action most appropriate to their circumstances.
Research has shown that behaving like a man will backfire; women are judged on women’s rules, not men’s. And while women do have more options than mere stereotypical behavior, their choices are more limited than men’s. As Ann M. Morrison, Randall P. White, and Ellen Van Velsor, from the Center for Creative Leadership, explain, women must operate within a “narrow band of acceptable behavior.” Hardball for Women will ease the process of figuring out how far to go without overstepping the bounds.
This book will teach you the rules. Exercises, journal work, and questionnaires will help you focus on your current attitudes and the goals you wish to achieve. As you read, you will learn:
• how to display confidence and power, even if you feel frightened and powerless
• how to offer help so you’re not seen as obstructionist
• how to be on either end of an attack during a business meeting and still remain cordial later
• how to work with people you don’t like
• how to lead men, how to lead women, and how to recognize the differences between the two
• how to take risks
• how to hide your vulnerability
• how to be a team player, in the masculine sense
• how to remain true to yourself
Our aim is to teach you to be more successful, so you can attain the goals you have set for yourself. We are writing this third edition to help organizations and leaders see the value that both genders bring and to encourage both to operate out of their strengths. We’re here to make the case that men and women contribute unique assets that benefit all organizations.
WE LIVE IN TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS
Although we grew up together in the same homes, eating the same foods, playing the same Internet games, and sitting in the same classrooms, men and women in our society come from disparate cultures. We may be blinded to the differences in male and female culture by our assumption that since we’ve been raised in the same time period, we all must share similar values. After all, the differences are not as great as if our male counterparts had come from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. Or are they?
The truth is, they just may be. Social psychologists studying sex role development have found that girls and boys are acculturated quite differently: girls have been taught to be fragile, dependent, compliant, cooperative, and nurturing, while boys learn to be sturdy, independent, active, assertive, aggressive, and unemotional. As Dr. Sandra L. Bem, an expert on sex roles, wrote, “Adults in the child’s world rarely notice or remark upon how strong a little girl is or how nurturant a little boy is becoming, despite their readiness to note precisely these attributes in the ‘appropriate’ sex.”
When does this teaching take place? You’re probably aware that gender-specific behavior begins at birth, the moment we wrap our infants in color-coded blankets. Though we may do it unconsciously, the subtle messages we send shape our children’s future behavior.
For example, Drs. Robert Stewart and Robert Marvin reported that the needs of infant girls are responded to more consistently than are those of infant boys. Another group of researchers, headed by Dr. Alyson Burns at the University of California, Davis, observed hundreds of families in the Sacramento Zoo and found that girl toddlers are more likely to be carried or pushed in a stroller while boy toddlers are more apt to walk, especially with their fathers. In these and countless other small ways, girls learn dependence while boys learn independence.
We can validate these research findings in our everyday lives. When mothers play dolls with their girls, they tend to hold on to the toy so that their female children come to them. When they play with boys, however, they roll a ball away so their sons will fetch it on their own.
Have you ever noticed that babies swaddled in blue blankets are held less gently than those wrapped in pink? Putting a baby girl into a carrier becomes a group project. “Watch her head!” we cry. But a baby boy, a tough little guy who can take a bit of rough handling—or should, for his own good—tends to get plopped into the carrier without a second thought.
Children learn gender-appropriate cultural lessons well, and they learn them early. The late Dr. Carol Nagy Jacklin, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, explained that youngsters practice sex-appropriate behaviors at astonishingly young ages. Along with Dr. Eleanor Maccoby, a noted Stanford University developmental psychologist, Dr. Jacklin demonstrated that boys and girls as young as thirty-three months are aware of the differences in the sexes, prefer same-sex playmates, and are wary of one another. They found that by the time children reach the age of six and a half years, they spend eleven times more time with children of the same gender as they do with those of the opposite gender. This gender segregation contributes to our growing up in different cultures; same-gender children reinforce one another’s behavior.
This also translates to how children play with their toys. Tammy was conducting a session when a male executive approached her during a coffee break. “When you started to talk about the research on toys, I decided I wasn’t going to listen anymore. My wife and I had twins three years ago, a boy and a girl. We intentionally decided to give them both the same toys—dolls and trucks—to avoid creating any gender stereotypes. From my perspective, both children played with the same toys the same amount of time. Every day when I get home from work, I take the kids to the park. They both run to get their dolls and strollers and push them to the park. I never even noticed until you just talked about the research that my daughter carefully puts her doll in the stroller, seat-belts her in, and covers her with a blanket. My son throws his dolls in the carriage. I’d never paid attention to it before, but he makes vroom noises on the way to the park. He careens around fast and sometimes his dolls fall out of their stroller. Now I see that both of my kids play with the same toys but they play with them in radically different ways.”
At a different session, an executive told Tammy that when he recently returned from some business travel, he had picked up a road construction set at the airport to bring home to his five-year-old daughter. It had all the things you might see when you come across construction: traffic cones, temporary signs, cars and trucks. “I was on the floor playing with her, setting up the road construction scene, when I noticed she had moved over to a corner of her room and was playing with two trucks. I asked her, ‘What are you doing with the trucks?’
“She replied, ‘Daddy, they’re talking. They’re becoming friends.’
“I gave her trucks to play with,” this newly enlightened father told Tammy, “and she did relationships.”
IT’S IN OUR NATURE
How we behave in the world depends on how we’re socialized and what’s in our nature. Some of the differences in male and female behaviors were not taught to us. They are inborn—biological. For instance, research has shown that men perform better at certain tasks, like math reasoning, navigating a route, and throwing and catching. Women are better at readily matching items, verbal fluency, the ability to find words that start with a specific letter, arithmetic, recalling landmarks, and placing a peg in a hole. Hormones that circulate in utero affect the brain and seem to create these differences. So yes, our brains are different. Men tend to have stronger front-to-back circuits between perception and action—if men get bad news at work, they’re likely to pound the desk with their fists and curse. Women have stronger side-to-side links between reasoning and intuition—if they get bad news, they’re likely to connect with their gut feelings and then analyze the situation logically, They may even call a friend. If relationships are important, reasoning and intuition are key, because women live in a “social world.”
Cross-cultural analyses of gender differences show that males are stronger so they tend to engage in warfare, hunting, and metalwork. Women are vulnerable when they give birth and lactate. They may not move as quickly, and must rely on other females in their clan to help them raise children and be safe. In this, they may be strongly influenced by the hormone oxytocin, which draws people closer and which, it turns out, is important to our understanding of female relationships because it has intimacy-enhancing properties.