Fighting the Double Bind

Fighting the Double Bind

Sadly, women leaders are unable to express themselves fulsomely within the limits of professional and ethical codes of conduct. The double standard that exists in the workplace leads to a double bind. A double bind is a situation in which women leaders are considered to be high-handed and aggressive if they are strong and assertive, and weaklings if they display kind, supportive, nurturing qualities.

Richard Jolly discusses the double bind on Quartz at Work and suggests ways for women to fight back against this workplace scourge that deprives them of the liberty to rise to the pinnacle of their potential. The discourse alludes that women executives are expected to act in line with their reputation of being supportive, caring, and nurturing – qualities that make them likable. Yet, their leadership positions require them to exercise authority, and this requires brazen assertiveness. Being brazenly assertive, however, will cause them to be less likable. Hence, they find themselves in a double bind. But there are ways, as suggested below, for women to overcome this dilemma. 

Work for the job you want. If you are working towards a promotion, demonstrate how you will be able to help overall for the company to grow, handle threats, and lead ongoing and lasting change.

Recognize that you may need different personas. The stereotype is that women are nurturing and caring.  If you display these qualities at work, your male counterparts may classify this behavior as being weak or soft. In such circumstances, it may be helpful for you to assume a less affable and more authoritative personality.

Accept that it is hard work. Notwithstanding that it is a biased expectation, you may be pressed to work maybe twice as hard as your male colleagues to be perceived as a capable leader.Embrace this flawed expectation and work diligently and smartly to achieve the end you are working towards.

eCornell offers a professional Women in Leadership certificate. You can get qualified to navigate the double bind by pursuing this Ivy League program.

eCornell courses are approved by SkillsFuture Singapore for SkillsFuture Credit as well as by HRDF Malaysia under its SBL Scheme.