PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ chairman and senior partner Bob Moritz was sent to Japan, after a slow start in his career at the firm. It was about six years into his tenure, and he really did not want to go. When he arrived, he had a difficult time even trying to fit in with his Japanese colleagues. Everything was different, including of course the language, the culture, and the precise adherence to a formal hierarchy. When he was there, he reports, “I was the guy who was discriminated against.”
In a kind of cross-cultural hazing, his new colleagues brought him to a martial arts class to take a beating of sorts from the master. “I really got kicked around,” he recalls in a New York Times corner office interview last Sunday. The martial arts master told him, it was a special way to welcome him. Ouch.
Several women managers I know compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitusu and Wing Chun. A surprising point of interest is that Bruce Lee’s teacher in the martial art Wing Chun learned it from the founder, who was a woman.
We know women can fight. We know women can take a punch. We know women can fly combat, heroically fight on the battlefield and after all, give birth without painkillers (occasionally by choice).
What’s holding women back is the expectation that they will also sweetly reject any credit or regard for almost any of their achievements, no matter how minor or massive. They will cut themselves down with self-denigrating back talk.
I recently facilitated a discussion group on Customer Relationship Management. A smart young manager named Judie made an insightful analysis of new marketing automation software. A member of the group posted a comment acknowledging her contribution.
“Oh, you’re much too kind,” Judie replied, quashing any notion that she added value.
I see this all day long. I see women denying themselves credit. I see them losing the capital that makes a career, as it climbs one small step after another. They go two steps up, and then slide down almost solely on the basis of their own demeanor.
When companies and organizations realize that not compelling women to take what’s theirs – much less go with the flow, when interactions get rough, we will have a chance at gleaning the value of the whole workforce.
Encourage the women in your organization to stand up and take it. Even when it’s applause.
Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen