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Gini Dietrich

Achieving Workplace Equality

By: Gini Dietrich | August 15, 2011 | 
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Last week Sean McGinnis sent Margie Clayman and me an old blog post (old meaning 18 months old) that Clay Shirky wrote.

Without even clicking on the link, I knew “A Rant About Women” was going to make me mad.

I read half of the post before I got really angry. Then, in disgust, I closed it and didn’t go back to it.

But it kept nagging at me. So I gave it a second shot. And then a third and fourth. And then I read some of the 511 comments.

And, in typical Gini fashion, I won’t be able to let it go until I write about it. 

A Rant About Women

The premise of Shirky’s blog post is that women are not self-promotional, which holds us back. He quotes a magazine editor who tells a friend of his that men promote themselves all the time, but women wait for people to take notice.

I suppose that’s true. I know I’m guilty of it…having been raised to believe that if you work hard, eventually people will notice.

He goes on to say that, in order for us to be treated equally, we must be forceful and self-confident. He says:

It’s tempting to imagine that women could be forceful and self-confident without being arrogant or jerky, but that’s a false hope, because it’s other people who get to decide when they think you’re a jerk, and trying to stay under that threshold means giving those people veto power over your actions.

And therein lies the problem. When we act like men, we’re seen as as the word that begins with a B…you know, another name for a female dog.

The Glass Ceiling

But even if we acted like men, had the self-confidence to be called mean names, and were forceful and self-promotional, there still is a glass ceiling.

I’ve written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my “business partner,” who doesn’t exist, in oder to do business in the early stages of Arment Dietrich.

Charles was a great partner. He gave me negotiation power. Prospects took me seriously. And he didn’t exist.

I’ve always figured if you can’t fight the battle, join them…and then have the last laugh. I beat the glass ceiling with my own Remington Steele.

Why Can’t We Just Be Women?

One of the commenters, Laurence, said:

I just say that the male assertiveness/self-belief that Clay espouses has been running the planet for the last five (or so) milllenia, and look what a f* up job we have done. And we want women to learn how to behave like us? Pleeeease.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree that men have screwed everything up, but I don’t think we need to learn how to behave like men, anymore than men need to learn how to behave like us.

Each gender has strengths and each has weaknesses. Why not let us just be women, without trying to be men, and let each gender enhance the others’ strengths? I’m willing to admit men are better at some things…just like we’re better at others.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

165 comments
osakasaul
osakasaul

I agree wholeheartedly - women should not actually need to defy their femininity to be unlimited in advancement. And being assertive does not mean you are a B----.

Faryna
Faryna

Gini:

I admire your courage to confess to the charade of Charles Arment. And I celebrate your triumph to put that self-defeating charade to an end. You have done what kings and presidents hesitate to do. You have cut down the sword that hangs over your head. BRAVA!

My heart goes out to you, Gini. How many times did you stress out thinking a customer might discover the deception and walk away because they couldn't trust you! Like Damocles' sword hanging over your hear - I try to imagine your fear, regret and shame as that hung over your hard won successes, accomplishments, and professional accolades. I feel how sadness and shame have run a deep course through your heart.

Your ambition is fearsome. You make things happen. You play the game and the head games. You seize quickly upon new opportunities. You don't play by all the rules BUT, in fact, no one who enjoyed even a small but tasty success played by all the rules. You make mistakes in pursuing your dreams, sometimes fighting tooth and nail - as does any man or woman who strongly wants what they want.

That doesn't make you a...

You are human. Heroic. Amazing.

Columbiarose
Columbiarose

"We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly." ~ Margaret Atwood

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

Once upon a time, I was Regional Personnel Manager for a National retail chain. We were expanding fastly and furiously and our grammar was going to pot too.

Against some corporate misgivings in Head Office I appointed the first ever female Store Manager in the company and the first ever female to the corporate Management Trainee Program. These two women won these jobs for one reason. They were very, very good.

I sometimes think that continuing to "go on" about glass ceilings and similar matters is just a bit old hat. I'm not denying that equal opportunity is not quite as equal as it ought to be. But this applies to lots of groups in the workplace, not just women.

I'll get out of the way so I'm not trampled to death by outraged sisters as they surge towards their high horses.

I'd just like to let you know that I made those two appointments in gorgeous Sydney, Australia.......... in 1976.

The more things change...........even in the Antipodes.

It's all part of having fun, I suppose.

Regards

Leon

Yogizilla
Yogizilla

I love your take-away in the closing, Gini. Each gender does have strengths and weaknesses.. but it's not just limited to genders or gender roles. Certainly, we are predisposed to certain adversity given cultural barriers, conditioning, and the like, but we have the power to conquer that and play up our strengths. In the end, we can choose to be the CEO of our lives as @janet callaway would put it (ever so gracefully, I might add) our play the victim card.

Now, the interesting thing here is that it's not just women that get judged. I find that I have friends that hide from me now that they know I am in business for myself. I hid it for years, even when I was just moonlighting.. The thing is that there are paradigm shifts being embraced all around us and others are fighting them hard. Change scares many people.. That's why "Who Moved My Cheese" became the go-to book for many organizations, especially those "right-sizing" their businesses. It softened up the blows of what most did not want to accept. Truth be told, some sacrifices is needed. Once you stop trying to please everyone and embrace who you are, flaws and all, you'll be free to focus on other things. As a man (well, at least last I checked), I feel women have some advantages, especially on the social web. Let's be honest: sometimes people only support you because you have a cute face as an avatar picture.

I see it all the time.

Like you, I've created false personalities to see what would happen. When I pretended to be a woman in online games and social platforms, people were more supportive and friendly. Suddenly, I wasn't that icky business person that was trying to sell me something every now and then. LOL

We're not the only ones that have done this social experiment.. It's sad that it comes to that but most are not ready to put their doubts and insecurities aside.. So you have to position things just right or take tons of time to build that trust, or leverage the trust of others.... Ah, that's where referrals are huge.. but even then people are tuning out sellers. It's a tough world for us, not just for women, men, or those in between.. The truth is people have been burned and we're looking for friends. We're looking to identify ourselves and have a voice amidst all the noise and faceless entities.. Once we can bring back the that warmth and focus on the social aspect of social media, maybe people will be more kind to us, regardless of gender.

I actually touch upon some of this in my article here:

http://unbounce.com/seo/the-adaptive-seo-approach

I feel the call to action is for all of us to work harder to show people that we care. The strong-arm selling tactics of before don't work for long, if at all. You can exude confidence and passion without being pushy.. Finding that balance is tough, though.

That's why we have to make sure we remember people every day, before we realize the potential to help them out with what we have to offer. If we don't, people will close doors on us, even if our intentions are good.. Regardless of our gender (or charisma). 8)

lauraclick
lauraclick

Ok - don't get me started on this topic! I could write a whole blog post in the comments. This kind of thing burns me up. It all started in my high schol socialogy class when I learned that women make 80 cents to the male dollar. Boo!

I had NO idea the Arment in your name was fake! I often wondered who the mysterious "Arment" was. I remember when I first discovered you that I looked all over your website and found no mention of "Arment". I just assumed he/she was a silent partner - guess I was right! I just didn't realize how silent! Your story reminds me of James Chartrand of Men with Pens. That caused quite a stir when James came out as a woman sometime last year.

I don't vilify you or James for coming up with fake identities. I just think it's sad that it was necessary at all. I certainly give you credit for being creative enough to come up with it. I don't think I would have had the balls to do that!

At the end of the day, I think we have do what you suggested - do what women do best and let the chips fall where they may. Trying to be something we're not will only backfire. Besides, do we really want to work with the people you mentioned in your blog post? I don't. If they can't respect me for being a smart woman who's in charge, then they can go find a man they can chum up with. It will be better for both of us.

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

G - seriously, the book, when?

what the what as my kids got me saying...

the presumptions are rampant here. you keep it simple, everyone can do something better.

apparently shirky hasn't met some women i've met- they are remarkable liars and self-promoters.

ugh... doofus...

MSchechter
MSchechter

Hilarious! I've been meaning to ask you for the longest time who Arment was :) I've always been very fortunate to watch my mother who as far as females in jewelry go was a bit of a pioneer. One of the first women to graduate from GIA (gemology school) and worked her way up relentlessly with no family ties to the industry. Her secret. Never letting "being a woman" get in her way... actually never letting anything get in her way... She just came in, did her thing and let people have their own hang ups. She knew what she wanted to do, knew what it would take to do it and wan't going to let anyone put a glass ceiling over her head. She never let circumstance (in this case, her gender) get in her way.

I may be alone here, but it often feels like it is our own hangups rather than the actual issues themselves that end up holding us back...

Now I need to go and remember the name of that Whoopi Goldberg movie where she pulled the same schtick...

bdorman264
bdorman264

You know you have arrived when the president of @lanierupshaw is mentioning this post in a meeting.....just sayin'.............

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Fascinating piece, Gini! As is the whole deal with Charles Arment.

I have to agree about women being bad self-promoters. Something we're taught somewhere along the line makes woman be modest. I don't remember actually being taught that, but girls are picking it up somewhere in their youth!

As for letting women be women, I'm kind of torn on that. Frankly, some of the most challenging (yes, that's a diplomatic word choice) bosses I've had have been women. Women are sometimes the biggest enemies of other women. Catty, petty, insecure.

Frankly, I don't think women should act like women or be more like men. As a whole, I think the human species should act more like dogs. The world would be a better place is we embraced our inner canine ^..^

Rieva
Rieva

And I have to add a quote from Tina Fey: "Bitch is the new black." (speaking in fashion terms of course)

Rieva
Rieva

@ginidietrich, this argument goes back decades. And it was crap then & it's crap now. (Sorry for the language.) Way back in the 1990s I was at a Women in Biz conference held at Northwestern. This was in the early days of the "entrepreneurial revolution, but women had already ramped up their startup rate and were launching businesses at 2 to 4 times the general startup rate.

I was on a panel with a new editor from Inc. who told the audience she checked with her new bosses (more senior editors) and that the reason Inc. magazine didn't cover women all that much was because they "didn't seek the spotlight" "they didn't promote themselves" etc. I promptly threw away my prepared remarks to say, essentially--that's a crock. I couldn't understand why Inc. didn't get pitches from women-owned businesses, while we, at Entrepreneur get plenty. Maybe I wondered, it was because I was a female editor, and Inc.'s staff was dominated by men. I got a spontaneous standing ovation.

It makes me sad that about 2 decades later we're hearing the same old excuses. It's not the women business owner's fault for relative lack of coverage. I think most are savvy enough business owners to play the PR and marketing game.

But today it's more sexy to talk about social media gurus, superstars or whatever moniker they'embracing or pretending to eschew, or hot tech startups. Those fields are dominated by men. Believe me there are plenty of successful women in business, trying to get more attention if only more media people would pay them some notice.

Sorry for the rant--I am so sick of fighting the exact same battles.

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

I never wanted to ask about the Arment part of the name. I was a huge fan of Remington Steele when it was on TV. "Mr. Steele functions best in an advisory capacity". The show also introduced Doris Roberts as a loveable nag/kvetch when the otyher guy in the show got tired of holding Pierce Brosnan's Burberry. It's unconscionable that you had to use the same rouse in the 21st Century and indicative of how far we have yet to go. Having only read your review of the Shirky post, I disagree with the premise. To back my opinion I offer some of the very successful women I've had the privilege of communing with on Twitter and in the blogs, most of whom do an outstanding job of self-promotion. The difference btwn men and women is that women forgo the end zone dance. By the way, the difference between successful self promoting men and blow hards is that successful self promoting men also forgo the end zone dance.

Tinu
Tinu

In college, I tried to write about this same topic without sounding like I thought any characteristic of humanity was excluded from the other gender by virtue of gender. People almost always take it the wrong way. My opinion on the reason is that the traditional roles of men and women have become devalued often, as often by your own gender as the other. It goes all the way back to the worldview of being identified by our juxtaposition in regards to the other, an almost subconscious impulse embedded in the dominant culture. Thanks Plato.Other than that, Gini, I have nothing to add but applause.

Columbiarose
Columbiarose

Model the change you want to see. Promote the talents of others. Be the mentor you wish you'd found. Keep a look out for people who could be helped by your support. Model and reward gracious assertiveness. Notice and thank the people who support others. Notice exclusion and do something about it. Notice and praise a woman who asserts herself productively. Reward people who speak up and say what was hard to say but needed saying. Acknowledge men who support women. Acknowledge the women who gave you a hand up.

JenKaneCo
JenKaneCo

Since I've always been a fan of Clay's, I'm going to take the approach that his post was a brilliant illustration of his point. Clearly the title and topic is designed to set people off, and, as a consequence, fuel traffic to his blog and increase his own popularity. True, I would not have thought to write a post of my own, in hopes of increasing my own popularity, dictating exactly where Mr. Skirky could stick his rant. But I think this is less a fault of my own lack of self confidence than it is my utter lack of interest in what the hell this dude thinks of women.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

Has anyone read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex recently? I read it in college and have been meaning to pick it back up for some time now. This might just be the straw that does that.

She discusses how different the world would be if there were more female leaders of state. More peaceful.

Must go back, read, and report back.

JenFongSpeaks
JenFongSpeaks

Great post Gini. It's a darn shame that when women are assertive we get called that nice name for dogs. It especially irritates me when I see it in American politics. And business is no better. (And I had no idea that you had invented a male partner. What a hoot.)

We need to keep calling attention to it, and defining our own path as women if we hope to effect change. You are one of those that is making it happen on a daily basis. Thanks.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lauraclick George Eliot was a woman, too. Fortunately, I didn't have to use Charles for very long. I really did it as a joke and then discovered it worked. So it stuck.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@MSchechter As well as I know you, I absolutely believe she lets nothing get in her way.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@MSchechter I think that your mother and my mother would be wonderful friends. They seem to have the same attitude toward life.

Rieva
Rieva

@MSchechter People's hangups may be part of it. But the actual issues are, well actual. They're real and all too common.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@WordsDoneWrite Have you seen The Help yet? There is a scene in there where the mother tells the main character to cross her legs at the ankle, stop smoking, and not to swear. It's been burned into us for eternity.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Rieva I also enjoyed reading your rant. I actually think it's bigger than not playing the PR and marketing game. I'm Executive Platinum on American because I travel so much. Do you know how many other women I see, at that same level, on planes? Maybe one a trip. One. When I speak at conferences, I'm usually the only woman. In fact, in the Vistage speaking circuit, women make up less than five percent of their speakers. You know this - you travel the same amount as me (if not more), you speak at conferences, you spend a lot of time with business owners. How many are women?

I think it has more to do with what Sheryl Sandberg talks about: That we let up off the gas because we "might" get married or we "might" have babies. And we feel guilty going after a promotion because we "might" leave.

You and I don't think that way - we're far too competitive. But I think that's the reality of our gender.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@Rieva Personally, I enjoyed reading your rant. I thought it was interesting.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@barryrsilver I know I'm probably too young for Remington Steele, but I remember watching the reruns when I was a kid. Remington Steele was my hero for a while. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Tinu It's very true ... women are almost worse about other women than men. As a gender, we're catty, manipulative, and downright mean. The only way we can change the ideals of our gender is to stop behaving that way.

Rieva
Rieva

@Columbiarose Exactly. We can't expect the world to change without us helping chage it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JenKaneCo I'm a big, big fan of Skirky's. And I was super pissed reading his blog post. Imagine being a student of his. I'd think he was a blow hard...and I'd tell him so. I agree that he wrote it to be controversial and, based on the comments and pingbacks, it worked. I'm not that strategic. When something pisses me off, I write about it. I really tried to let it go. I finally was able to when I put words to paper, so to speak.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

@lisa Gerber Ah ha! We're on the same wavelength. As soon as I read Gini's post I thought of the de Beauvoir's quote: "One is not born a woman, but becomes one." Which means what? We are who we are in business because someone made us that way? Women are capable of making their own decisions - but when you live in a world where men call (most of) the shots, our interpretation of how we should act, promote etc is likely compromised. Do all women feel this way? No. But you'd be surprised how many still do.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lisa Gerber I haven't read it, but Sandberg talked a bit about that in the commencement speech we watched. It certainly would be a different world. Read it and report back!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JenFongSpeaks I love seeing you here! Hi! It's certainly better some days than others, but we'll keep fighting the good fight!

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Rieva I'm not denying that there are pieces of crap in this world and I may very well be skewed by working in an industry that has a nice balance of both men and women in power. But I will argue that we are often a big part of what potentially holds us back in life.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@ginidietrich@Tinu That's very true. I actually sometimes find it easier to work with men for that very reason unless they're like the men @NancyD68 mentioned earlier. Give me catty women any day over that.

Rieva
Rieva

@Erin F. I am hopeful that's the answer. I think younger (Millennial men) are more aware and just less sexist.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@Rieva That could be true. I'm an entrepreneur, so my boss is me, and she's a horrible taskmaster at times. I'm thinking of networking events I've attended and how I've been received. I don't think I'm taken as seriously by the men of the older generation. The men of the younger generation - mine, I suppose - is more willing to listen to me and to evaluate if I'm the real deal or just saying the right words.

Rieva
Rieva

@Erin F. I anxiously await your solution. I think the answer is generational, but I'm been thinking that awhile.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@Rieva I wish there were some way I could alleviate the frustration. Maybe I'll dream of an ingenious idea/plot tonight...

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