A New Guide to Being a Successful Woman

As feminism rose in the second half of the 20th century, a self-proclaimed feminist named Helen Gurley Brown stood as the exemplar of female success. Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, author, and businesswoman, Gurley Brown seemed to have it all ― plus a handsome and successful husband, to boot.

Even better, Gurley Brown was unafraid of helping other women achieve the same levels of success, publishing memorable advice such as:

“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp.”

“If you’re not a sex object, you’re in trouble.”

Alright, so Gurley Brown’s “feminist” advice hardly stands the test of time. Indeed, much of the information published to help women find career success seems to be embarrassingly outdated and certainly inadvisable in today’s workplace. Modern women need a new guide to being successful ― and the following tips should definitely make it in.

Forget the Staff and Get in Line

Typically, the terms “line" and "staff” are rarely heard outside strategic management courses. However, these designations for different positions within a company are worthy of becoming buzzwords because they effectively distinguish between different roles vital to business success.

Staff positions are those that provide expertise and aid; they are often defined as technical ― e.g., engineers and economists ― or support ― e.g., data processors and personal assistants ― and boast skills that allow businesses to run.

Really, staff members exist to serve workers in the line, who claim authority and responsibility for achieving an organization’s goals. Line authority rigidly follows a path directly from the most powerful leaders in a business, so those in the line are integral members of the chain of command who are likely to follow that chain to the top.

Unfortunately, according to Catalyst’s Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners, in 2002 women held less than 10% of line positions, and in 2012 that number had just barely risen to about 14%. Without experience in the line, women are less likely to be noticed and picked for promotions that lead to executive positions. However, getting in line isn’t simple.

Earning an advanced degree is a great way to prove you have the knowledge, and there are many flexible online MBA programs that you can access these days. This isn’t the only way to learn what you need. One option is to find an educational boot camp focused on the area of expertise you’re looking to bolster or a sales certification course if you want to get specific. There are many options out there that cover web development, manufacturing, and more. Other available education options include Udemy and free courses from renowned universities.

Focus on Achievements

Flying in the face of the wise words of Helen Gurley Brown, most successful modern women advise against using one’s sexuality to get ahead. In fact, a 2005 study entitled “Sex as a Tool at Work” found that women who act flirtatiously and dress provocatively are dramatically less likely to receive raises and promotions that lead to career success.

For many, this restriction on behavior might feel unfair. Women should be allowed to dress and act however they like without fearing a decrease in respect ― just as men in similar positions rarely suffer for their conduct. Yet, until women can obtain equal power to men, many female workers must try to get ahead in a biased world by becoming relatively sexless.

Rather than simpering in a stereotypically female fashion, women should command admiration by committing to their work and speaking often about their achievements, especially with those who can reward them with boosts to their career.

Communicate With Strength

Anything men can do, women can do ― but that doesn’t prevent the sexes from cultivating distinct customs. Communication style is perhaps the most notable difference in men and women, and it becomes even more obvious in workplace settings. According to Dr. Pat Heim, who studies gender differences in management, women tend to hedge, add disclaimers, and insert questions into their speech, which men tend to associate with uncertainty, insecurity, and ineptness.

Instead, most women executives have learned to develop a communication style that male peers feel comfortable with. This includes being decisive and direct, and avoiding humbleness and meekness at all costs. For many women, relearning how to communicate is incredibly difficult, but it is necessary for success in male-dominated fields.

Maintain a Unique Identity

Amongst the advice for young, ambitious women to change how they act and speak, many women in successful positions maintain that it is important to retain their essential personality traits. Changing too much for a job will result in supreme dissatisfaction, which many women already experience too much. In fact, a study on women’s career goals by the Center for Work/Life Policy found that nearly 80 percent of women most wanted “the freedom to by myself at work.”

Stripping oneself of one’s personality is not an effective step to success. Instead, women should learn necessary behaviors for certain situations while maintaining their true identities elsewhere. Then, they can exhibit the strength and certitude that will lead to promotions and power while feeling fulfilled and comfortable with whom they have become.

Consider Trailblazing

Much of the advice for modern women looking for success is painfully contradictory: Be both educated and experienced; abandon your sexuality but maintain your essential woman-ness; have a voice but change it to sound male. For many women, the contortions required for success in established, male-dominated organizations are too much ― so they find their own ways.

Women are now the majority owners of 38 percent of American businesses, and female entrepreneurship is growing at a rate five times faster than the national average. Given the advice above, this information should come as little shock. Instead of trying to become someone new to find success, women are creating workplaces where they can have success without changing significantly to suit men. Thanks to financial resources like crowdfunding and government grants, women are finding it ever easier to own their own businesses.

Still, most women must make concessions. Cultural ideals continue to see a truly successful woman excelling in her job, raising the requisite 2.5 kids, and catering to her husband and home ― but it is impossible to do it all well. An ambitious woman must be willing to hire a housekeeper, use childcare services, and miss social opportunities with friends and family for the sake of her career, regardless of whether she works for an established organization or strikes out on her own. Even Helen Gurley Brown knew that:

“There is no way to succeed and have the lovely spoils—money, recognition, deep satisfaction in your work—except to put in the hours, do the drudgery. If you give, you get. If you work hard, the hard work rewards you.”
Tiffany Rowe is a leader in marketing authority. She assists Seek Visibility and our clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web. Tiffany prides herself in her ability to create and provide high quality content that audiences find valuable. She also enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With many years of experience, Tiffany has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing content and relationship across multiple platforms and audiences.