As a female business owner, I am naturally passionate about women’s place on the business arena. When scrolling through my Twitter feed, I always pause when my eye catches a post targeting professional women. That is exactly what happened when I came across this article posted on Globe and Mail’s website. I paused, clicked and started reading.

As I was reading, I kept getting confused (it was Friday evening, so my brain might have been in slow down mode). Is this written for teenagers? Recent University grads? Students? Nope, it is in the Small Business section and is called “Ten ways women can raise their professional profiles”. 

I quickly went from confusion to anger. When you work really hard on actually raising your professional profile as a business woman, it is frustrating to read pieces that seem to be written for little girls. Let me break it down for you.

Everything in bold is the advice from the original article and what follows is my response.

Embrace being a woman. Thank you, but shouldn’t this have happened years before I became a professional woman? I am teaching my 5 year old to love her gender; I certainly wish and hope nobody will be empowering her to embrace her womanhood when she is out of the sandbox and on the business playground.

Build your brand consciously. This point advises women to be conscious about the way they dress. In addition to also being incredibly patronizing (as a business woman – and an adult – I have somehow managed to figure out how to dress myself), this advice is plain misguided. No one cares about company CEOs wearing hoodies as they keynote large scale events – shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk whose work I have been obsessing with lately, but I digress – and you know what? No one cares when I wear sneakers to meetings. And you know what I actually build consciously? My business! I wear what feels authentic and it has zero impact on those around me.

Network, network, network. I personally hate the concept of “networking”, but that’s my personal preference and I fully support everyone who enjoys the process. That being said, this advice applies equally to men as it does to women, so what irritates me the most is the unnecessary gender segregation.

Sidenote: if you do hate networking, it is not a gender issue – it is a personality thing. You can raise your professional profile without it. Reach out; I will gladly share experience.

Be open to opportunities. Don’t wait to be perfect before accepting or asking for an opportunity. Men don’t. They accept the opportunity and figure out how to make it work as they go along. Umm, no. No! Many men do wait before accepting or asking for an opportunity. Some of the male consultants on my team at Pronexia know I am virtually pointing at them with this one. Women don’t need labels but neither do men; there are different people who, regardless of their gender, act and react differently. What a notion, I know!

Be kind. Can we have a campaign to ban this word for women actually? Let’s start when they are young. If I get a dollar every time my 5 year old is advised to ‘be kind’ when she shows even one degree of personality deviating from ‘mild’… . It makes my blood boil. And now that I am an adult, I am in even less in need to be advised to be kind, nice, sweet, – well, you get my point.  

Welcome feedback. Great advice for any human being! Why is it more pertinent to professional women? I don’t know.

Take up space. Be aware of your body language. Stand tall, speak clearly and project confidence, even if you don’t always feel that way. Great tips for anyone looking to project more authority, but ironically this is something I (a female professional) coach my male consultants on. Again, not a gender issue. 

Don’t be afraid to be different. I feel very different reading this post. Right now, at this particular moment, I feel different and not the good kind.

If you choose to be a leader, lead. And if you choose to be a manager, manage? And if you choose to be a teacher, teach? And if you choose to be a programmer, then program? Got it.

Recognize that men can and should help. No comment. I typed and erased my response to this, but – no. Just no comment.

This is why:

Gender equity will not happen without men’s support and attention, and substantial change must be generated from the very top of organizations.

This goes to the core of the problem I have with this piece. Substantial change must not be generated from the very top of organizations. It should be generated from within each one of us. We need more women to get enraged at the suggestion that building their professional profile requires them to ‘be kind’. We need more women ready to step away from the tired gender stereotypes of grouping all men into one category and all women into another one. We need to talk about building our confidence, finding a voice (a loud one works well but is optional!) and releasing the guilt that might be the bottleneck of our potential success.
In short, if you gain absolutely nothing else from my post, I implore you to at the very least dress in whatever the heck you want. Whether you are a man or a woman, give it a shot. I promise – it will be liberating! Send me pictures.

by Marina Byezhanova

 
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