I Thought You Were A Man: How to Be a Woman and a Successful Leader

Recently, I was having lunch with a couple of guys I used to work with when one of them, Steve, started to chuckle under his breath and squirm a bit in his seat. “I don’t know if I should tell you this or not, but I used to think you were a man.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Well, I had always heard about Sandi Coryell running the Entertainment office with its big accounts and an iron fist. Maybe I’m just a chauvinist but I just assumed it was Mr. Sandy Coryell, some gruff, middle aged man.” he said.

“yeah, that assumption would put you firmly in the chauvinist bucket.” I said.

“There’s more,” he laughed. “Then, when I always saw you around Sandi Coryell’s office, you know with your blonde hair, flared jeans, and long coats, I just assumed you were Mr. Coryell’s secretary.”

“nice,” I snarked back at him.

I leaned in, pushing against the table, to hear more. Steve admitted that he had just assumed that someone who had reached that position in the agency and successfully run such a rough piece of business had to be a man. In any event, it couldn’t have been a woman who also cared about fashion and being well groomed. Oh, the horror!

Welcome to the career of many a woman in business. The decision to pick whether to be a pseudo male or a full fledged woman is one that female executives often have to make at some point or another -with consequences no matter what the choice.

I learned this within months of being hired right out of college as an assistant. A female co-worker had pulled me into a hallway, stood nose to nose with me, and whispered as if we were in some secret conspiracy “you will have to choose. Do you want to be the target of all the guys who will want to yank your chain or do you want to become one of them?”

Hell, who would choose the victim role. I chose to be one of the “boys” and I learned enough about sports and off color jokes to keep up with their conversations for years. I also developed a really thick hide and a colorful vocabulary. I wore “proper” suits and cut my hair.

I was miserable. Keeping up this charade every day was bull.

Slowly, I started to revert to who I really was. I grew out my hair, started wearing the latest trends from cowhide skirts to amazing beaded coats that would make even Joseph jealous. And, yes, by the new millenium I was rocking flared jeans on a regular basis.

Right about that time, I was promoted to President. I don’t think it was a coincidence. I stopped worrying about being one of the boys and just was who I was.

I know I wasn’t unique in that experience. Recently, I heard a roundtable discussion on the daytime program “The Talk” about Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who chose to go to a meeting wearing only minimal make-up. A group of women were arguing about whether it was a woman’s responsibility to groom a certain way for professional meetings. Many experts would say yes.

Why? Because for some reason, it throws people off kilter when we aren’t what they expect in a particular role. I learned that keeping people a little off kilter could be a good thing. It gives you the element of surprise. Right, Steve?

Here’s what I know about simultaneously being female and a corporate executive:

-Being one of the guys when you’re a woman is a full time job and it’s exhausting. Spend that energy on something important

-Pick a career where your true brand matches the profession- I was in entertainment advertising so I could wear flared jeans and beaded coats and still be professional. You don’t have to be one of the guys to be professional but you do have to be professional

-Know your stuff inside and out. You don’t get to deviate from normal unless you first have the responsibilities of the job wired

-Understand that people will make assumptions about you. Don’t sweat it, have fun with it!


  1. 759339 972176Oh my goodness! a wonderful write-up dude. Thanks a good deal Nonetheless We are experiencing trouble with ur rss . Do not know why Not able to sign up to it. Possibly there is anybody finding identical rss issue? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx 801144

  2. 733500 182015Some times its a pain within the ass to read what individuals wrote but this internet website is quite user friendly ! . 765737

  3. 224718 293925Its a shame you dont have a donate button! Id most definitely donate to this outstanding internet internet site! I suppose in the meantime ill be happy with bookmarking and putting your Rss feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this weblog with my Facebook group: ) 8717

  4. 801577 538169Somebody necessarily support to make seriously articles I may state. That will be the very 1st time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the research you produced to make this actual put up incredible. Fantastic task! 765038

  5. 797527 119902This internet internet page is genuinely a walk-through for all with the info you wanted about this and didnt know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you will surely discover it. 339040

  6. 82899 39227of course like your web-site nonetheless you require to check the spelling on quite some of your posts. Quite a few them are rife with spelling issues and I to discover it extremely bothersome to inform the reality nevertheless Ill surely come back once again. 705842

  7. 346745 255172Spot lets start function on this write-up, I truly believe this amazing web site requirements significantly far more consideration. Ill apt to be once once more to read a terrific deal far more, a lot of thanks for that information. 875751

  8. 71474 236952This internet internet site might be a walk-through its the data you wanted in regards to this and didnt know who need to. Glimpse here, and you will totally discover it. 328645

  9. 231791 954194This design is steller! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (properly, almostHaHa!) Fantastic job. I actually enjoyed what you had to say, and a lot more than that, how you presented it. Too cool! 45994

  10. 662741 277898This is genuinely fascinating, You are a extremely skilled blogger. Ive joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, Ive shared your web website in my social networks! 672505

  11. 248939 860034The the next occasion I read a weblog, I really hope so it doesnt disappoint me around brussels. Come on, man, Yes, it was my option to read, but I just thought youd have some thing interesting to state. All I hear can be plenty of whining about something which you could fix in the event you werent too busy searching for attention. 497108

  12. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.

  13. 453426 631714yourselfm as burning with excitement along accumulative concentrating. alter ego was rather apocalyptic by the mated ethical self went up to. It is punk up to closed ego dispirited. All respecting those topics are movables her need to discover no end touching unpronounced. Thanks so considerably! 449035


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.