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Chapter 3 Success and Likeability
OKAY, so all a woman has to do is ignore society’s expectations, be ambitious, sit at the table, workhard, and then it’s smooth sailing all the way. What could possibly go wrong?

In 2003, Columbia Business School professor Frank Flynn and New York University professorCameron Anderson ran an experiment to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace.

Theystarted with a Harvard Business School case study about a real-life entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen.

The case described how Roizen became a successful venture capitalist by using her “outgoingpersonality … and vast personal and professional network [that] included many of the most powerfulbusiness leaders in the technology sector.”

Flynn and Anderson assigned half of the students to readHeidi’s story and gave the other half the same story with just one difference—they changed the name“Heidi” to “Howard.”

Professors Flynn and Anderson then polled the students about their impressions of Heidi orHoward. The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent, which made sense since “their”

accomplishments were completely identical. Yet while students respected both Heidi and Howard,Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi, on the other hand, was seen as selfish andnot “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The same data with a single difference—gender—created vastly different impressions.

This experiment supports what research has already clearly shown: success and likeability arepositively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.

When a man is successful, he isliked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less. Thistruth is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking because no one would ever admit to stereotyping onthe basis of gender and unsurprising because clearly we do.

Decades of social science studies have confirmed what the Heidi/Howard case study so blatantlydemonstrates: we evaluate people based on stereotypes (gender, race, nationality, and age, amongothers).

Our stereotype of men holds that they are providers, decisive, and driven. Our stereotype ofwomen holds that they are caregivers, sensitive, and communal. Because we characterize men andwomen in opposition to each other, professional achievement and all the traits associated with it getplaced in the male column. By focusing on her career and taking a calculated approach to amassingpower, Heidi violated our stereotypical expectations of women. Yet by behaving in the exact samemanner, Howard lived up to our stereotypical expectations of men. The end result? Liked him,disliked her.

I believe this bias is at the very core of why women are held back. It is also at the very core of whywomen hold themselves back. For men, professional success comes with positive reinforcement atevery step of the way. For women, even when they’re recognized for their achievements, they’re oftenregarded unfavorably. Journalist Shankar Vedantam once cataloged the derogatory descriptions ofsome of the first female world leaders. “England’s Margaret Thatcher,” he wrote, “was called ‘Attilathe Hen.’ Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister, was ‘the only man in the Cabinet.’

President Richard Nixon called Indira Gandhi, India’s first female Prime Minister, ‘the old witch.’

And Angela Merkel, the current chancellor of Germany, has been dubbed ‘the iron frau.’ ”

I have seen this dynamic play out over and over. When a woman excels at her job, both male andfemale coworkers will remark that she may be accomplishing a lot but is “not as well-liked by herpeers.” She is probably also “too aggressive,” “not a team player,” “a bit political,” “can’t be trusted,”

or “difficult.” At least, those are all things that have been said about me and almost every seniorwoman I know. The world seems to be asking why we can’t be less like Heidi and more like Howard.

Most women have never heard of the Heidi/Howard study. Most of us are never told about thisdownside of achievement. Still, we sense this punishment for success. We’re aware that when awoman acts forcefully or competitively, she’s deviating from expected behavior. If a woman pushes toget the job done, if she’s highly competent, if she focuses on results rather than on pleasing others,she’s acting like a man. And if she acts like a man, people dislike her. In response to this negativereaction, we temper our professional goals. Author Ken Auletta summarized this phenomenon in TheNew Yorker when he observed that for women, “self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense.”

In orderto protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements,especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.

During the summer between my first and second year in business school, I received a letter in themail congratulating me on becoming a Henry Ford Scholar for having the highest first-year academicrecord. The check was for $714.28, an odd number that immediately signaled that several students hadsplit the prize. When we returned to school for our second year, six men let it be known that they hadwon this award. I multiplied my check by seven and it revealed a nearly round number. Mysterysolved. There were seven of us—six men and me.

Unlike the other six winners, I didn’t let my award status become general knowledge. I told onlymy closest friend, Stephen Paul, and knew he would keep my secret. On the surface, this decisionmight have worked against me, since grades at Harvard Business School are based 50 percent on classparticipation. Professors teach ninety-minute classes and are not allowed to write anything down, sothey have to rely on their memory of class discussion. When a student makes a comment that othersrefer to—“If I can build on what Tom said …”—that helps the professor remember the critical pointsand who made them. Just as in real life, performance is highly dependent upon the reaction peoplehave to one another. The other six Ford Scholars quickly became the most-quoted speakers as theiracademic standing gave them instant credibility. They also received early job offers from prestigiousemployers before the official recruiting period even began. One day in class, one of the exalted sixmade a comment that, to my mind, demonstrated that he had not even read the case being discussed.

Everyone fawned all over him. I wondered if I was making a huge mistake not letting people knowthat I was the seventh student. It would have been nice to float through my second year of businessschool without even reading the material.

But I never really considered going public. I instinctively knew that letting my academicperformance become known was a bad idea. Years later, when I learned about the Heidi/Howard casestudy, I understood the reason why. Being at the top of the class may have made life easier for mymale peers, but it would have made my life harder.

I did not reach this conclusion in a vacuum. All through my life, culturally reinforced signalscautioned me against being branded as too smart or too successful. It starts young. As a girl, you knowthat being smart is good in lots of ways, but it doesn’t make you particularly popular or attractive toboys. In school, I was called the “smartest girl in the class.” I hated that description. Who wants to goto the prom with the smartest girl in the class? Senior year, my class voted me “most likely tosucceed,” along with a boy. I wasn’t going to take any chances with the prom, so I convinced myfriend, who worked on the yearbook, to remove my name. I got a prom date who was fun and lovedsports. In fact, he loved sports so much that two days before the prom, he canceled on me to go to abasketball game, saying, “I know you’ll understand since going to the playoffs is a once-in-a-lifetimeopportunity.” I did not point out that as a high school girl, I thought going to the prom was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Luckily, I found a new date who was less of a sports fan.

I never really thought about why I went to such efforts to mute my achievements from such a youngage. Then, about ten years after I graduated from business school, I was seated at dinner next toDeborah Gruenfeld, a professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Stanford, and our friendlysmall talk quickly turned into an intense discussion. Having studied this issue, Professor Gruenfeldwas able to explain the price women pay for success. “Our entrenched cultural ideas associate menwith leadership qualities and women with nurturing qualities and put women in a double bind,” shesaid. “We believe not only that women are nurturing, but that they should be nurturing above all else.

When a woman does anything that signals she might not be nice first and foremost, it creates anegative impression and makes us uncomfortable.”

If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman seems really nice, she isconsidered more nice than competent. Since people want to hire and promote those who are bothcompetent and nice, this creates a huge stumbling block for women. Acting in stereotypicallyfeminine ways makes it difficult to reach for the same opportunities as men, but defying expectationsand reaching for those opportunities leads to being judged as undeserving and selfish. Nothing haschanged since high school; intelligence and success are not clear paths to popularity at any age. Thiscomplicates everything, because at the same time that women need to sit at the table and own theirsuccess, doing so causes them to be liked less.

Most people, myself included, really want to be liked—and not just because it feels good. Beingliked is also a key factor in both professional and personal success. A willingness to make anintroduction or advocate for or promote someone depends upon having positive feelings about thatperson. We need to believe in her ability to do the job and get along with everyone while doing it.

That’s why, instinctively, many of us feel pressure to mute our accomplishments.

In October 2011, Jocelyn Goldfein, one of the engineering directors at Facebook, held a meetingwith our female engineers where she encouraged them to share the progress they had made on theproducts they were building. Silence. No one wanted to toot her own horn. Who would want to speakup when self-promoting women are disliked? Jocelyn switched her approach. Instead of asking thewomen to talk about themselves, she asked them to tell one another’s stories. The exercise becamecommunal, which put everyone at ease.

Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success. Professional advancement depends uponpeople believing that an employee is contributing to good results. Men can comfortably claim creditfor what they do as long as they don’t veer into arrogance. For women, taking credit comes at a realsocial and professional cost. In fact, a woman who explains why she is qualified or mentions previoussuccesses in a job interview can lower her chances of getting hired.

As if this double bind were not enough to navigate, gendered stereotypes can also lead to womenhaving to do additional work without additional reward. When a man helps a colleague, the recipientfeels indebted to him and is highly likely to return the favor. But when a woman helps out, the feelingof indebtedness is weaker. She’s communal, right? She wants to help others. Professor Flynn calls thisthe “gender discount” problem, and it means that women are paying a professional penalty for theirpresumed desire to be communal.

10On the other hand, when a man helps a coworker, it’s consideredan imposition and he is compensated with more favorable performance evaluations and rewards likesalary increases and bonuses. Even more frustrating, when a woman declines to help a colleague, sheoften receives less favorable reviews and fewer rewards. But a man who declines to help? He pays nopenalty.

Because of these unfair expectations, women find themselves in “damned if they do” and “doomedif they don’t” situations.

This is especially true when it comes to negotiations concerningcompensation, benefits, titles, and other perks. By and large, men negotiate more than women.

Astudy that looked at the starting salaries of students graduating with a master’s degree from CarnegieMellon University found that 57 percent of the male students, but only 7 percent of the femalestudents, tried to negotiate for a higher offer.

But instead of blaming women for not negotiatingmore, we need to recognize that women often have good cause to be reluctant to advocate for theirown interests because doing so can easily backfire.

There is little downside when men negotiate for themselves. People expect men to advocate on theirown behalf, point out their contributions, and be recognized and rewarded for them. For men, there istruly no harm in asking. But since women are expected to be concerned with others, when theyadvocate for themselves or point to their own value, both men and women react unfavorably.

Interestingly, women can negotiate as well as or even more successfully than men when negotiatingfor others (such as their company or a colleague), because in these cases, their advocacy does notmake them appear self-serving.

However, when a woman negotiates on her own behalf, she violatesthe perceived gender norm. Both male and female colleagues often resist working with a woman whohas negotiated for a higher salary because she’s seen as more demanding than a woman who refrainedfrom negotiating.

Even when a woman negotiates successfully for herself, she can pay a longer-termcost in goodwill and future advancement.

Regrettably, all women are Heidi. Try as we might, we justcan’t be Howard.

When I was negotiating with Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for my compensation,he made me an offer that I thought was fair. We had been having dinner several nights a week formore than a month and a half, discussing Facebook’s mission and his vision for the future. I was readyto accept the job. No, I was dying to accept the job. My husband, Dave, kept telling me to negotiate,but I was afraid of doing anything that might botch the deal. I could play hardball, but then maybeMark would not want to work with me. Was it worth it when I knew that ultimately I was going toaccept the offer? I concluded it was not. But right before I was about to say yes, my exasperatedbrother-in-law, Marc Bodnick, blurted out, “Damn it, Sheryl! Why are you going to make less thanany man would make to do the same job?”

My brother-in-law didn’t know the details of my deal. His point was simply that no man at my levelwould consider taking the first offer. This was motivating. I went back to Mark and said that I couldn’taccept, but I prefaced it by telling him, “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your dealteams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be onopposite sides of the table.” Then I negotiated hard, followed by a nervous night wondering if I hadblown it. But Mark called me the next day. He resolved the gap by improving my offer, extending theterms of my contract from four to five years and allowing me to buy into the company as well. Hiscreative solution not only closed the deal, but also set us up for a longer-term alignment of interests.

The goal of a successful negotiation is to achieve our objectives and continue to have people like us.

Professor Hannah Riley Bowles, who studies gender and negotiations at Harvard’s Kennedy School ofGovernment, believes that women can increase their chances of achieving a desired outcome by doingtwo things in combination.

First, women must come across as being nice, concerned about others,and “appropriately” female. When women take a more instrumental approach (“This is what I wantand deserve”), people react far more negatively.

There is a saying, “Think globally, act locally.” When negotiating, “Think personally, actcommunally.” I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining that they know thatwomen often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer.

By doing so, women position themselves as connected to a group and not just out for themselves; ineffect, they are negotiating for all women. And as silly as it sounds, pronouns matter. Wheneverpossible, women should substitute “we” for “I.” A woman’s request will be better received if sheasserts, “We had a great year,” as opposed to “I had a great year.”

But a communal approach is not enough. According to Professor Bowles, the second thing womenmust do is provide a legitimate explanation for the negotiation.

Men don’t have to legitimize theirnegotiations; they are expected to look out for themselves. Women, however, have to justify theirrequests. One way of doing this is to suggest that someone more senior encouraged the negotiation(“My manager suggested I talk with you about my compensation”) or to cite industry standards (“Myunderstanding is that jobs that involve this level of responsibility are compensated in this range”).

Still, every negotiation is unique, so women must adjust their approach accordingly.

Telling a current employer about an offer from another company is a common tactic but works formen more easily than for women. Men are allowed to be focused on their own achievements, whileloyalty is expected from women. Also, just being nice is not a winning strategy. Nice sends a messagethat the woman is willing to sacrifice pay to be liked by others. This is why a woman needs tocombine niceness with insistence, a style that Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University ofMichigan, calls “relentlessly pleasant.”

This method requires smiling frequently, expressingappreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching thenegotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance.

Most negotiations involvedrawn-out, successive moves, so women need to stay focused … and smile.

No wonder women don’t negotiate as much as men. It’s like trying to cross a minefield backward inhigh heels. So what should we do? Should we play by the rules that others created? Should we figureout a way to put on a friendly expression while not being too nice, displaying the right levels ofloyalty and using “we” language? I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world byadhering to biased rules and expectations. I know it is not a perfect answer but a means to a desirableend. It is also true, as any good negotiator knows, that having a better understanding of the other sideleads to a superior outcome. So at the very least, women can enter these negotiations with theknowledge that showing concern for the common good, even as they negotiate for themselves, willstrengthen their position.

In addition, there are huge benefits to communal effort in and of itself. By definition, allorganizations consist of people working together. Focusing on the team leads to better results for thesimple reason that well-functioning groups are stronger than individuals. Teams that work togetherwell outperform those that don’t. And success feels better when it’s shared with others. So perhapsone positive result of having more women at the top is that our leaders will have been trained to caremore about the well-being of others. My hope, of course, is that we won’t have to play by thesearchaic rules forever and that eventually we can all just be ourselves.

We still have a long way to go. In November 2011, San Francisco magazine ran a story on femaleentrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and illustrated it by superimposing the featured women’s heads ontomale bodies.

The only body type they could imagine for successful entrepreneurship was wearing atie or a hoodie. Our culture needs to find a robust image of female success that is first, not male, andsecond, not a white woman on the phone, holding a crying baby. In fact, these “bad mother with abriefcase” images are so prevalent that writer Jessica Valenti collected them in a funny and poignantblog post called “Sad White Babies with Mean Feminist Mommies.”

Until we can get there, I fear that women will continue to sacrifice being liked for being successful.

When I first arrived at Facebook, a local blog devoted some serious pixels to trashing me. They posteda picture of me and superimposed a gun into my hand. They wrote “liar” in big red letters across myface. Anonymous sources labeled me “two-faced” and “about to ruin Facebook forever.” I cried. I lostsome sleep. I worried that my career was over. Then I told myself it didn’t matter. Then everyone elsetold me it didn’t matter—which only reminded me that they were reading these awful comments too. Ifantasized about all sorts of rejoinders, but in the end, my best response was to ignore the attacks anddo my job.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, believes that learning to withstand criticism isa necessity for women. Early in her career, Arianna realized that the cost of speaking her mind wasthat she would inevitably offend someone. She does not believe it is realistic or even desirable to tellwomen not to care when we are attacked. Her advice is that we should let ourselves react emotionallyand feel whatever anger or sadness being criticized evokes for us. And then we should quickly moveon. She points to children as her role model. A child can cry one moment and run off to play the next.

For me, this has been good advice. I wish I were strong enough to ignore what others say, butexperience tells me I often can’t. Allowing myself to feel upset, even really upset, and then move on—that’s something I can do.

It also helps to lean on one another. We can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the attacksare not personal. We can joke, as Marlo Thomas did, that “a man has to be Joe McCarthy in order tobe called ruthless. All a woman needs to do is put you on hold.” Real change will come whenpowerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.

If women held 50 percent of the top jobs, it would just not be possible to dislike that many people.

Sharon Meers was motivated to write Getting to 50/50 after observing this kind of tipping pointfirsthand. In the late 1990s, Amy Goodfriend was chosen to lead Goldman Sachs’s U.S. derivativesteam (and later became the first female partner in the Equities Division). It was a seismic event andcaused four senior men to quit the group. Amy faced a lot of skepticism and criticism. Before Sharonjoined the team, a male friend told her, “Amy’s a bitch, but an honest bitch.” Sharon found that Amywas a great boss, and over the next few years, the derivatives group was transformed under herleadership. Once there were more than five female managing directors in the division—a criticalmass—the negativity and grumbling began to die down. It became normal to have female leaders, andby 2000, the stigma seemed to have dissipated. Sadly, when those senior women later left and thecritical mass shrank, the faith that women could be as successful as their male peers shrank with it.

Everyone needs to get more comfortable with female leaders—including female leaders themselves.

Since 1999, editor Pattie Sellers of Fortune magazine has overseen an annual conference that she callsthe Most Powerful Women Summit. On my first night there in 2005, I was in the lounge with twoclose friends, Diana Farrell, then head of the McKinsey Global Institute, and Sue Decker, then CFO ofYahoo. We were talking about the name of the conference, and I mentioned that when I saw the titleon Google’s corporate calendar, I ran to find Camille to ask her to change the name to “FortuneWomen’s Conference.” Diana and Sue laughed and said that they had done the exact same thing.

Later, Pattie explained that she and her colleagues chose this name on purpose to force women toconfront their own power and feel more comfortable with that word. I still struggle with this. I am fineapplying the word “powerful” to other women—the more the better—but I still shake my head indenial when it is applied to me. The nagging voice in the back of my head reminds me, as it did inbusiness school, “Don’t flaunt your success, or even let people know about your success. If you do,people won’t like you.”

Less than six months after I started at Facebook, Mark and I sat down for my first formal review.

One of the things he told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back. He saidthat when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’tmaking enough progress. Mark was right.


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