Women of my generation struggled to build our assertiveness (but never aggressiveness!) skills against an inborn and socialized mandate to "be nice." I've tried to encourage the young women I mentor along the same lines. Career gurus are supposed to take definitive positions, but I often find myself giving seemingly contradictory advice. Some days you have to fight; other days, the best thing to do is keep your head low. Occasionally you have to hurl a plate or coffee cup — no, wait, that's aggressive!
One thing I am pretty sure I've never advocated for is giving in to the "disease to please." That said, many of us have developed an expertise in learning how accommodate, negotiate, and, yes, make people happy. Understanding what motivates others (something women often do particularly well) makes for effectiveness.
Need a good example? How about when Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, who, with two other Republican female senators (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who overcame the Tea Party to win re-election in 2010, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, (Tea Party), joined with two strong Democrats (Senators Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Patty Murray of Washington) to recommend a three part plan, described in the New York Times, to their arrogant colleagues on Capitol Hill? (What's happening on the Hill makes me want to throw the entire contents of the china cabinet.)
It's true that boys often have the advantage of socialization which builds their leadership capacity. But, in this case, perhaps the skills that these powerful women learned either at a sleepover or passing notes to a BFF — or perhaps their plain desire to accommodate a fellow human being — may prevent a world wide financial collapse.
In her National Journal article, Do Women Make Better Senators Than Men?, Jill Lawrence notes other accomplishments of female senators that are equally impressive: "The family-leave proposal builds on the unpaid leave now available because of the efforts of earlier Capitol Hill pioneers. The minimum wage is a nontraditional 'women’s issue' that [Senator Kristen] Gillibrand put on her list because she says nearly two-thirds of those earning minimum wage are women. Then there’s Obama. The first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act making it easier for women to sue for equal pay. Universal pre-K, meanwhile, was a key proposal in the president’s most recent State of the Union address."
Girl power is effective!
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