Catalyst calls it the “double bind.” A woman is “damned if she does, doomed if she doesn’t.” The “it” implied in doing or not doing is acting in a masculine style. I, too, call it the “double bind.” Both women and men can be more effective if they shift from masculine to feminine styles depending on the circumstance. When women shift, however, they are walking a tightrope. If they speak, act or lead in a feminine way, they aren’t likely to be seen as leaders. If they use a masculine style, they are often seen as too forward or aggressive.
Catherine Rampell recently wrote an article in the Washington post called “Why Women Just Can’t Win”. What she describes is the damned or doomed tightrope. Of the women she interviewed, 84% said that they have received feedback that they were “too aggressive and 44% said (as I have) that they have heard both that they were “too aggressive” and “too quiet.”
A friend recently told me that, in interviewing for a job, she had faced the “Goldilocks thing.” She couldn’t be too confident or too “nice”; she had to get it just right.
So, there are lots of names for this phenomenon. Whatever we call it, it is a tightrope that women but not men must walk. It is a rigged test that women must get just right. And it sets up an obstacle for women to reach their full potential.
Is awareness of this phenomenon enough to lower this obstacle? What can we do to bring it down?