Quiet Girls Can Run the World: Owning Your Power When You're Not the

Quiet Girls Can Run the World: Owning Your Power When You're Not the "Alpha" in the Room

by Rebecca Holman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143133537
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 200,051
Product dimensions: 5.46(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Holman is the editorial director of Grazia online. Previously, she was the editor of The Debrief, an award-winning website for millenial women. Based in London, Holman has been a columnist for the Telegraph's "Wonder Women" section and has written about dating, relationships, lifestyle, and pop culture for Grazia, Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire Australia, and Stella.

Read an Excerpt

1.

Beta Woman Who?

"Why are you so determined to force all working women into two unhelpful and reductive boxes: Beta and Alpha?" I hear you ask.

I want to talk about Beta women, not because I think all women either are or aren't one-as I've said, it's a spectrum, with some women displaying more Alpha or Beta tendencies than others-but because I want to speak up for every woman who isn't professing to be the shout-the-loudest, dogmatic, in-the-gym-at-the-crack-of-dawn, working-all-the-hours-she-can-possibly-manage-on-very-little-sleep boss-lady. Even if she isn't your boss yet, she soon will be, because she's the Alpha female, and that is how it works. And in an age of Instagram #goals and constant one-upmanship, Alpha has become shorthand for hardcore. Six-kids-and-CEO-of-a-multinational-company hardcore. Silencing-an-entire-room-of-subordinates-with-one-glance hardcore. The early-morning-spinning-class-badge-of-

honor hardcore.

I should probably have gone to interview a bunch of women at a terrifying dawn gym class for this book, but, suffice to say, I only ever get up before dawn if it's to catch a cheap flight somewhere hot.

Let's be clear. Some (plenty of?) women operate in that way and are perfectly happy. The problem is that operating on full speed has become the goal we should all be aspiring to, and that's where I take issue. Why else would there be reams of articles on the internet dedicated to the morning routines, exercise regimens, travel beauty tips, and wardrobe hacks of preternaturally successful women? Yes, there are plenty of meme-friendly mantras about being yourself and finding what makes you happy, but we don't live in a world where "being content" is a marker of success. A marker of success is zipping across town in an Uber to three different networking events before heading home to finish work and grab a refreshing four hours' sleep before it all begins again. It's exhausting and unsustainable for most mere mortals; yet with anything less, we haven't quite nailed life.

So by Beta, I mean the rest of us-the non-Alphas.

We all know who the apparent Alpha women in our lives and newsfeeds are, but who are the non-Alphas? We're the women for whom no promotion is worth getting out of bed before seven thirty on a Monday morning. We're the women who may or may not love our jobs (although I have to confess to adoring mine) but want the opportunity to succeed and do well, so we work hard. It's women like me, who fear that they're not hardcore enough but that the time and energy they'd waste on pretending to be hardcore could be better used elsewhere . . . like on their actual jobs.

Just found out you've got to run a team and you're concerned that the only management style that works is the Shouting and Fear Methodª? Been told you're too passive in that loud and pointless weekly meeting where nothing ever gets decided? Can't be bothered to hang around in the office till 8:00 p.m. because that's what everyone else does, or Instagram your Sunday-afternoon "mini brainstorm session for next week!" (because you're at the bar on a Sunday afternoon, where you belong, and you got all of your work finished on Friday anyway)? Then, my friend, you might just be a non-Alpha. Welcome to the club.

In this 24/7, Instagram-filtered, heavily curated world, we're told to go hard or go home-but why do we assume that going hardcore is always the best way? What are the differences between Alpha and Beta traits, and does it stand that Alpha characteristics make one more successful?

When I asked all the women I interviewed for this book if they were an Alpha or a Beta, almost no one had a straight answer for me. No one said they were an outright Alpha. Most felt they were Alpha in some aspects of their lives and Beta in others. And, equally, someone with emotional intelligence can be an excellent leader whether they're an Alpha or a Beta, but they can certainly have very different management and work-ing styles.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, the portrayal of the Alpha woman we're used to in popular culture is not positive: it's the classic bitch or manipulator, from Cruella de Vil to Sigourney Weaver's Katharine Parker in Working Girl.

The reality is obviously more nuanced. Eddie Erlandson, coauthor of Alpha Male Syndrome, characterizes the Alpha woman as "the velvet hammer . . . they maybe have a little higher EQ (emotional quotient, or emotional intelligence) [than Alpha males] . . . but they can be equally as urgent, assertive, and aggressive as men are." So, the Alpha female could be less obviously identifiable than her male counterpart, because she will be more inclined to rein in her Alpha-ness when the situation requires, but still possesses the same drive and assertiveness.

And, of course, there are many examples of the classic Alpha woman in popular culture and current affairs-it makes sense that Alpha women will, by definition, be the ones we all know about. Think BeyoncŽ, Hillary Clinton, and Madonna.

So what's the difference between an Alpha and a Beta woman? A Beta woman is "more likely to be the one who isn't taking accolades," explains Nicole Williams, a career coach. "Instead, she's saying, 'Look at what my colleagues did . . .' The Beta is more receptive. They aren't dogmatic." Or as Urban Dictionary puts it: "The Beta female will be called upon to voice her opinions, and her evaluations will most times be valued by the Alpha female. She also knows when to keep silent and when to talk. She is second in command."

It's harder to find IRL examples of Beta women in popular culture-a Beta woman's tendency to work for the group rather than personal glory reinforces this pattern. (Jennifer Aniston's name is often bandied around as the celebrity example of choice, pitted against Angelina Jolie's Alpha, but I'm not buying it.) Then there are the faux-Betas, whose #relatable "real" persona no doubt hides an Alpha-worthy hide of steel (Taylor Swift, I'm looking at you). But more on faux-Betas later.

Even when it comes to fictional female characters, the Beta is rarely at the forefront. One exception that springs to mind is Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones. The nineties' poster girl for "normal women" is about as Beta as they come, but maybe that's because her life is presented to us in diary format-we get to read every thought she has. Every insecurity and every moment of self-doubt, loneliness, or fear is laid out in full for us. Maybe we're all Betas in the pages of our diaries.

We're told-in a nutshell-that being Beta is all about being a professional sidekick. The perpetual Robin to an Alpha's Batman. Betas are often perceived as weak, embodying the female traits we don't consider to be powerful or valuable in the workplace: empathy, collaboration, the ability to listen. But does being a woman mean that you're statistically more likely to be Beta? Sort of. Ish.

Research by Erlandson and his wife and coauthor, Kate Ludeman, found that men are more socially conditioned to embody Alpha traits than women, and Alpha women are likely to possess fewer "Alpha risk factors" than men. HR consultant Tanya Hummel agrees: "We're talking about Alpha versus Beta, but it could just as well be men versus women, because as much as you do get the queen bee who pulls the rungs up behind her, you also find that [women leaders] tend to be good coaches and that everyone wants to work with them because they're collaborative, they're accommodating. They allow creativity because they're less aggressively competitive than if you were in an all-male environment."

Hummel also explains that about two-thirds of those identified in personality tests as being people-oriented (a classic Beta trait that I have in spades) are women. Meanwhile, two-thirds of those who are much more outcome-focused (a more classic Alpha trait) tend to be men. Not all men or women fall into either category, but there is a gender bias.

And although Alpha women like to win, most experts agree that they tend (on the whole) to be less belligerent and authoritarian than their male counterparts. And if you believe that Alpha or Beta is about learned behavior as much as about genetics, then few would argue against the premise that women are still taught to embody more classically Beta behavior than men.

Dr. Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the lead researcher for Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, prefers to think about personality types in terms of agentic versus communal ("agentic" being direct, ambitious, self-starter, and forceful, versus "communal" being, in her words, "nice and warm and friendly"). "With these two different sets of behaviors, the agentic are strongly associated with men, and what culturally we think men are like, and the communal are the same but in women, so this is the root of stereotypes about men and women. And as there's so much belief and understanding that you really have to be type A in order to be a leader, that's where we arrive at this place where leadership is seen as a better match for men.

"So the problem for women is, if they engage in these sort of alpha or agentic behaviors, they're violating expectations about how women are supposed to behave and they get pushed back for it. And then women who exhibit the marking in

all characteristics-the ones we expect and associate with women-they're often not taken seriously and they're seen to be less competent."

It's a double bind.

And here's why this book is about Beta women and not Beta men. Those same traits that women are taught and conditioned to embody, from being accommodating and flexible to being nurturing and pragmatic, are often the same traits that are dismissed in the workplace as a sign that one is not "serious" or "doesn't have the competitive edge."

"There's a very narrow framework through which we allow people to be leaders and display their sense of leadership, and I think it narrows even more for women and people of color," says Dr. Cooper.

The traits that are found more often in women than in men (and before a squillion Alpha women write to me in outrage, I appreciate that this won't apply to everyone) aren't those that are considered traditional makers of success.

There's a simple reason why our view of success is so bizarrely narrow. Men have always dominated the workplace-and still do. Of course we automatically-wrongly-use traditionally male traits as markers for professional success and rarely question it. That's how it's always been.

But it's plain wrong. The markers of success, of a good boss, of a productive employee, or of a successful entrepreneur, are far more complex than how Alpha you are. Otherwise this would be a very short book indeed.

For starters, according to Nicole Williams, being a Beta can make you a better leader than an Alpha. "As a manager, it's your role to make other people shine," she explains. "And one of the great boss-like characteristics of Betas is that they bring out the best in others."

I asked dozens of women of different ages, working in different industries, to tell me about the characteristics they most admired in their past bosses and managers. Their responses were strikingly similar. Almost everyone talked of people who gave them clear objectives and tracked their progress but didn't micromanage them. And almost everyone mentioned a boss who was smart and inspiring. The more important traits were almost always empathy and the ability to be inspired by their team; the great boss didn't harbor unrealistic expectations or make hardcore demands.

People remember the bosses who gave them the direction and freedom to do the best job they could and encouraged their personal development. You know, the team players, the nurturers. The Betas.

At the moment, we're seeing, more than ever, how dynamic Alpha leadership doesn't always translate into a good management style. In early 2017, Uber's founder, Travis Kalanick, was forced to apologize after he was caught on camera having a heated exchange with a driver during a night out. The driver complained about the company's pay rates and business model, to which Kalanick could be heard saying, "Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!"

The company has since been plagued with numerous claims of sexual harassment and dodgy HR practices, so this incident is potentially a drop in an ocean of toxic behavior. Kalanick comes across as the worst type of Silicon Valley bro, but when the video came out, he was contrite: "By now I'm sure you've seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead, and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away."

Kalanick went on to say that he'd realized he needed to change as a leader and receive help. We have no way of knowing how sincere he was in his apology, but it's interesting that he knew he needed to make it, that his brash, arrogant (and extreme Alpha) leadership model wasn't impressing anyone, even if it worked for him (and his investors) in Uber's fast-moving, fast-growing early years.

Similarly, Miki Agrawal, the dynamic female cofounder of Thinx, an online female-hygiene company, faced accusations of sexual harassment from staff in early 2017. Aside from the allegations, it was noted that as the company quickly grew, Agrawal failed to employ any HR staff or implement HR policy. She later stood down as CEO, to focus on promoting the brand, saying, "I'm not the best suited for the operational CEO duties, nor was it my passion to be so."

Tinder, Airbnb, Snapchat-the small, agile tech start-ups of yore, where big ideas, even bigger vision, and brash arrogance ruled the day-are now fully fledged businesses, with HR practices, shareholders, and customer expectations to adhere to. And what we're seeing is that some of the big Alpha bosses who got the businesses off the ground aren't necessarily the right people to see them through the next ten, twenty, thirty years.

It's not just about the tech industry either. I heard a story about a creative, dynamic, energetic, and Alpha CEO, who had the vision, drive, and energy to transform a large publishing house's fortunes when they needed a total change of direction. Later, when the company was in "business as usual" mode, she was let go and replaced with a much more process-driven, quieter Beta leader. The reason? She was amazing when huge, disruptive changes had to happen but couldn't manage people properly or keep things ticking over on a day-to-day basis.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Quiet Girls Can Run the World"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Holman.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Chapter 1 Beta Woman Who? 1

Chapter 2 Where Have All the Successful Betas Gone? 25

Chapter 3 Shoulder Pads Are Bullshit: Isn't It Time We Redefined What a Successful Woman Looks Like? 47

Chapter 4 Fake It Till You Make It? Why Your Online Self Is Trolling Your IRL Self 67

Chapter 5 Beta or Lazy? Unraveling My Impostor Syndrome 85

Chapter 6 Why Every Woman Needs a Work Wife 101

Chapter 7 Office Politics for the Very Lazy: Criticism One-Upmanship 119

Chapter 8 Burnout: A Modern Malaise for Modern Ladies 139

Chapter 9 It's What's on the Outside That Counts (and Why Everyone's Judging You) 159

Chapter 10 Q: What Happens When You Put a Beta Peg in an Alpha Hole? 181

Chapter 11 Be the Robin to Her Batman: How to Deal with Your Alpha Boss 199

Chapter 12 Being Batman When You Feel Like Robin Inside: How to Deal with Your Alpha Team When You're the Beta Boss 215

Chapter 13 How to Deal with Sexism in the Workplace When You're Beta, Alpha, or Just a Woman 227

Chapter 14 Alpha or Beta: Is One Ever Better Than the Other? 245

Acknowledgments 257

Index 259

About The Author 269

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