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The more successful a woman, the less likeable she is. AIBU?

(75 Posts)
Moknicker Mon 11-Mar-13 14:20:58

Heard Sheryl Sandberg say this todayv (radio) and have to say I agree with her. When a woman does a good job - people say well done but you have put people off, been aggressive. Have had this in my career and been told to "smile more".

The more successful a woman gets the less she is liked. Conversely the more successful a man gets, the more other men and women like him - can see this happening with DH.

How do I let my DD grow up with the attitude that she can be extremely successful at whatever she wants but also be liked as a person.

So AIBU - do you think you/ are/ know successful and likeable women?

ChestyLeRoux Mon 11-Mar-13 14:23:13

No I dont think thats true at all. If your a nice person people will like you.

Noodled Mon 11-Mar-13 14:23:25

I interviewed recently for a senior position, two panel members wanted to discount one candidate because they thought her 'a ball breaker'. Ffs. Agreeably she was offered the position after interview.

Moknicker Mon 11-Mar-13 14:26:09

Chesty - it's more to do with the perception of being likeable as opposed to whether you are nice or not.

If a nice man and nice woman are both equally successful, the nice man will be seen as more likeable than the woman, in my view.

LandofTute Mon 11-Mar-13 14:26:40

What I have noticed in my own workplaces is that people (women as much as men) have not liked very confident, self assured women. I'm not that confident and have been liked more, although I have tended to like the more confident women myself. Just something i have noticed in one female dominated and one male dominated workplace, although may not be representative.

MagratOfStolat Mon 11-Mar-13 14:27:26

Well, I hate to break it to you but it's probably true. Women get to great positions because they fight tooth and nail for it, and if that means making the tough choices or going against the grain then it's tough luck. The same could always be said of men, but they don't seem to have the whole "ball-buster" thing following them around.

People are always going to like you for who you are, or hate you for who you are. It's a fact of life, and quite frankly I'm betting half of the people who claim to like a successful person "just the way they are" are lying because they want to be around someone successful.

You aren't going to be loved by everyone, so I think a better thing to teach would be that if people like you the way you are, then great! If not, then that's their problem and not yours - you find out who your true friends are that way.

ChestyLeRoux Mon 11-Mar-13 14:27:53

I dont agree its the same as when some girls say they arent liked as they are too pretty. Its not usually the reason there is something more to it.

Noodled Mon 11-Mar-13 14:27:59

I like your optimism chesty but do not share it. I see the judgements made about successful women as an extreme manifestation of the casual sexism experienced by many women at work either personally or institutionally.

cleofatra Mon 11-Mar-13 14:28:34

The point is that it's not about successful women but more about trumpet blowing: "look, Im successful" women.
There are so many graceful successful women who are well liked.

Snoopingforsoup Mon 11-Mar-13 14:29:43

I do think some people, male or female are likely to succeed as a result of being ruthless and not caring if people like them in order to get where they want to be.
These are the ones who are shit hot at their jobs but lousy people managers in my experience.
I think it's hard to be a great Manager and to be a truly nice person. It's hard not to get irritated when a team are squabbling/power playing or, when you have a lazy git who's carried by everyone else. You have to deal with these situations in a benign way. Underneath, it leaves me gasping!
So I see your point. YANBU.

quesadilla Mon 11-Mar-13 14:32:16

I think that's a massive over-simplification and generally not true. Yes, there are some very ambitious women who have already made it who can afford to get people's backs up but actually I think to be very successful as a woman you have to be very diplomatic and good at making contacts and its very hard to do that without knowing how to rub along with people, how to handle office politics at all. And in my experience women need to be able to do this far better than men. People will generally cut very obviously ambitious men with fewer social skills more slack if they are obviously very talented at what they do. If a woman comes across with a very thrusting, macho front people are likely to feel more jarred by her behaviour even if she's obviously good at what she does.

Actually I have a friend who is very talented at what she does but it hopeless at diplomacy (essentially can't accept any kind of authority from anyone and is the opposite of a team player) and she has not moved beyond a certain point in her career mainly for this reason (IMHO). If she were a man I think people would have been far more indulgent towards her. You can be a complete arse as a man and get away with being an "enfant terrible"; people just shrug and say "yes but he's so good at it" (see Jeremy Paxman/Quentin Tarantino/Piers Morgan/Liam Gallagher). How many women do you know who can get away with this sort of behaviour in very public roles? Not many...

tumbletumble Mon 11-Mar-13 14:33:56


I was successful in my career and was promoted quickly compared to my peer group. I'm currently a SAHM (hoping to return to work when my youngest starts school) and I'm a school governor, treasurer of the PTA etc.

Now I'm not going to say that everyone likes me grin but I have loads of friends, a good relationship with my family and a lovely DH.

The thing is that I have enough confidence in my abilities so I don't need to show off about them. People probably wouldn't realise I was successful if they were just chatting to me.

Sorry if that sounds smug. It's hard to get the words right.

catgirl1976 Mon 11-Mar-13 14:35:33


I've been sucessful in my career and I am bloody lovely smile

But I have been told I'd get further if I was "harder" or less pleasant, so I can see your point a bit

Springdiva Mon 11-Mar-13 14:35:43

If you are male and get to the top you can be seen as tough but patriarchal, which has a caring and protective side to it, if you are femle and get to the top you are not seen as matriarchal as that has a loving side to it which doesn't fit with business. So you are seen as, maybe, domineering rather than patriarchal which is less likeable.

SmiteYouWithThunderbolts Mon 11-Mar-13 14:37:14

I know a fair few very successful career women and they are very well liked by their peers, and have lots of friends. I see how the stereotyped 'successful woman' would be unlikeable - basically Katie Hopkins! - but I don't really know many real life women who genuinely fit that stereotype.

Trills Mon 11-Mar-13 14:37:25

YANBU to say that the same behaviour will be interpreted differently in men and women.

A woman might be seen as "too aggressive" or "pushy" where a man would be seen as "assertive" or "a natural leader".

HorribleMother Mon 11-Mar-13 14:39:20

I suppose Xenia may be a case in point

Nope, don't see it IRL. Can't see that successful people (of either gender) are more dislikable than folk in menial jobs or scattered dysfunctional lives. Or any gradient of trade-offs in-between along those lines happening at any point.

tumbletumble Mon 11-Mar-13 14:40:25

The advice I would give to your DD, OP, if she is bright but not pushy, is to choose a career when the results speak for themselves and your personality is of secondary importance.

So maybe a career requiring a post graduate qualification or similar, and not something like sales or marketing.

MammaTJ Mon 11-Mar-13 14:40:56

My boss is successful and extremely likable. YABU.

noddyholder Mon 11-Mar-13 14:41:20

Terrible attitude yabu

SashaSashays Mon 11-Mar-13 14:47:16

Something I've noticed is lots of successful women come with a derogatory personal remark.

Such as, Louise is the new director of x department, impressive as she's only young but of course no children or serious relationships. Jenny won the x contract, she worked so hard, but then i guess she had all that free time what with not having any friends, she' such a bitch you know. Sarah just got promoted, lucky girl.....she's such a slag though.

Whereas men get Mark is the new director of x department, impressive as he's only young. James won the x contract, he worked so hard. Steve just got promoted, lucky guy.

All these are pretty much verbatim experiences I've had at work, I think women are under a lot more scrutiny and criticism, lots of characteristics required to succeed are often penalised in women. John is assertive but Mary is a bossy bitch.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Mar-13 14:48:19

X post with Trills.

Gauri Mon 11-Mar-13 15:00:53

Tumble tumble, every career now needs personalities that can:
1. Play the politics but to be seen to be doing so.
2. Not come across aggressive if she is a women

It is not not in sales and marketing ones personality is judged.

Moknicker Mon 11-Mar-13 15:24:19

There was a study which asked respondents to read a story about a successful manager. The stories were identical, but some of the respondents read about manager Howard, while others read about manager Heidi. Surprisingly, people responded much more positively to Howard, and were more willing to consider working for him than they were for Heidi.

This is the sort of thing I am talking about - not bitchy ball breaking women who have made it to the top but normal women who are successful but find that as they climb the pole, they - the same normal likeable people become less likeable.

Tumble - Im hard pressed to think of a career apart from from being a writer like JD Salinger where my DD will not have to interact with other people and have her personality come into play.

Cleaofatra The point is that it's not about successful women but more about trumpet blowing: "look, Im successful" women.

IRL most successful women dont trumpet blow at all but are like Tumble - very self deprecating and dont talk about it. In fact, it is successful men who trumpet blow.

And anyway - if a woman is successful when on earth cant she say so without being seen to be boasty?

HecateWhoopass Mon 11-Mar-13 15:28:43

I think it's nothing to do with the woman and that study shows it!

People were given the same information, but the gender of the person in the story made a difference to them. They liked the man more. For no reason.

I don't think women at the top are less likeable.

I think people like women at the top less...

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