Forget Being One of the Boys: How Women Succeed in Today's Workplace

Last Updated Nov 4, 2009 4:46 PM EST

Last week, I posted excerpts from my recent conversation with Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth professor Ella Edmondson Bell, author of the forthcoming book Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape, about some of the challenges women face in today's workplace, such as continued exclusion from business networks and new pressures brought on by factors such as technology and globalization.

However, Bell says that despite these issues, now is a great time for women in the workforce:

We are needed to be competitive: if you look at the marketplace, the marketplace is more female. For a whole host of reasons, this is one of the best opportunities for women to advance, particularly in a time of crisis, when they can really show what they can bring to the table to make a difference.
In order to take advantage of these conditions, Bell advises women to make sure they're taking a few key actions:
  • Building relationships: "Women should be managing relationships not just upward, but sideways and downward in their organization. They should be building authentic relationships with their manager and with their manager's manager," says Bell.
  • Showing off talents: Societal expectations make women less likely than men to boast of their talents, but success may mean getting over being demure. "Now is the time to show off special skills you've been sitting on and afraid to use. Show how you can add to the bottom line," says Bell, who adds this doesn't mean being egotistical, but being genuine and unafraid to share your talents with your organization.
  • Developing others: "Women should be able to do that because their emotional intelligence should be just a tad higher in terms of building relationships, nurturing and caring," says Bell. "Those are important skills in the workplace. It's not about trying to take on a hard edge and being one of the boys. Now is the time to use those feminine attributes to develop your team."
Though women in business were once told these types of soft skills didn't matter, they are critically important now. "I'm not saying you don't have to do the analytical and perform and have vision to move a company forward, but when you add that to the emotional attributes, you have a very powerful package," says Bell.

Next week, in my last installment with Bell, I'll share her response to the question that a lot of BNET readers have been weighing in on: why are women so unhappy at work?

Photo courtesy of Mark Washburn.

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.