100 Most Influential Women in Advertising

Should Women Be Nice Or Not to Get Ahead?

Published on .

Cindy Gallop

Founder, CEO, Ifwerantheworld.com

POINT: Our industry needs more 'bitches,' and they need to speak up loudly

Some years back a research study on women in the U.S. workplace identified that women who do what comes naturally to them at work are seen as weak, feminine and ineffectual. Women who emulate men are seen as domineering, aggressive bitches. The study was titled, "Damned If You Do; Doomed If You Don't." In its coverage of it, The New York Times said, "Women can't win."

We can't, and that 's why my advice to women in this situation is the following: Be the bitch. Not literally -- there is never any excuse for aggressive, unpleasant behavior in the workplace, whatever your gender. But if it comes down to it, risking being seen as the bitch is the lesser of two evils. It'll get you more places and more of what you want than receding invisibly into the background in a charmingly feminine way will.

Right now our industry needs more bitches because bitches need to start bitching, by which I mean, speaking up.

We live in a world where the default setting is always male. Most innate bias and sexism is unconscious. We change that by speaking up. Have a different point of view from the men? Say so. Want that promotion? Ask for it. Facing an all-male leadership team, board, creative department or conference speaker lineup? Challenge it and propose a better balance. Yes, you'll be called a bitch but not by people who know the best new future for our industry is one shaped equally by men and women.

Linda Kaplan Thaler
Linda Kaplan Thaler
Robin Koval
Robin Koval

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Chairman, Publicis Kaplan Thaler; CEO, Publicis Kaplan Thaler

COUNTERPOINT: There's power in being nice, especially in our hyperconnected world

As two Bronx natives, we learned early on that a four-letter word can get you anywhere -- that is , when it's spelled N-I-C-E. Unfortunately "nice" has gotten a bad rap in the corporate world. Business books and reality TV teach us that "Nice guys finish last," and that in order to be successful, we have to eat our young.

But we're living proof that nice guys, and gals, finish first. Our success -- with clients, employees, friends and spouses -- was achieved not with pitchforks and spears, but with flowers and chocolates. Believe us, many a difficult conversation has been saved with a Snickers (although an entire box of Godiva comes in handy for emergencies).

"Nice" is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and it's also a proven business strategy. Positive impressions are like seeds. Once planted, they have the potential to grow and flourish in the minds and hearts of others. Conversely, negative impressions are like germs. One example of bad behavior can digitally travel the planet in seconds, and there's no "delete" in cyberspace. In today's hyperconnected world, kindness is key -- especially in the communications industry.

People want to interact with companies and brands they like and trust. The most forward-looking companies are all about collaboration, sharing credit and reaping rewards together. As Harry Truman once said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Being nice isn't synonymous with being a pushover; it's synonymous with power. Guy, or gal, you can be nice and get the corner office.

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