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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Women and the Likeability Gap, Ambition Gap, and Fortune 500 Report

Today, we have sad news for women: the Afghan Head of Women's Affairs was assassinated. This is the second time in six months that the person in this position has been killed.

Luckily, we also have some good news.

The idea of the likeability gap, men being liked more as they succeed and women being liked less as they do the same, has been getting a lot of buzz recently. In Let's Talk About That Ambition Gap, Nisha Chittal discusses the intrinsic challenge women face to reconcile their ambition with their learned obligation to be likeable. In She Who Dies With the Most Likes Wins, Jessica Valenti argues that not being liked by everyone probably means you're doing something right. She says that "power and authenticity are worth it." That's a nice thought. Bryce Covert agrees that the Ambition Gap is malarky (to use a recent VP debate buzzword) - he makes a case for workplace bias, pointing out that women are just as likely as men to ask for raises and promotions. He says that subtle professional sexism is uncomfortable to discuss, and he's right - so cheers to him for steering the conversation there.

Catalyst recently released its 2012 Fortune 500 Census, with troubling results. They are taking steps forward to prepare a list of Catalyst approved, board-ready women, which they will use to challenge CEOs to diversify their own boardrooms.

These discussions are a good thing. The likeability problem is a big deal. John and I have had many conversations about why it's so important to me to be loved and liked. It's much easier for him to move forward - in relationships and in his career - without worrying about whom he might offend or how his tone might be perceived. I tend to agonize over these things, the pros and cons, the potential friendship backlash. I've recently made progress in being more true to myself, with less thought to what surface friendships it may or may not change. Jessica Valenti suggested (above) that it's better to be loved by a few than liked by many. And the ones who love you? They're always right there, every step of the way.

What do you think about this - the beginning of progress or media hype? I'd love to hear. :)


  1. I am bad about seeking validation. I am working towards understanding that there will not come a day when everyone agrees with and supports my actions or goals. I do think it's built into us as humans to always desire acceptance, and we have a need to be liked by people. I think it's just the matter of making sure that you don't allow your actions to be based on that fact. Great post! I also emailed you, just wanted to make sure you got it. Xo

  2. I did! Thank you so much! Agree about actions and acceptance, too.

  3. Great post, and great conversation starter! I think it is true - my husband and I are both people pleasers, and that makes it really tough, both personally and professionally. I'm fortunate enough to work somewhere with lots of women in positions of power, but I totally understand that ambition gap. But I am a firm believer that actual progress is being made - slow and steady!

    1. You're right, it's so hard to find that balance. xo

  4. With my John, I think it's reversed - I do what needs to be done and keep plugging forward, but John hesitates before and worries after many of his projects/actions. That said, we're very cautious of the people who mean a lot to us, and we're careful to explain ourselves during tough or bizarre decisions/situations (COUGH - our wedding - COUGH). As I tweeted earlier, being at the Economic Outlook Conference at USC was a horrific wake-up call that it's still a (white upper-class) boys club and it's going to be more than "beating them" or "joining them" to make a difference.


    Thanks for posting - time to rally the troops! And we will wear sparkly uniforms!

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