Successful women: what’s not to like?

At Davos last week Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, reminded the world of the ‘likeability’ penalty that women pay for success – that ‘as a woman becomes more successful, she is less liked, very importantly by women and men, and as a man becomes more successful, he is more liked’.

That add-on – ‘very importantly by women and men’ – got me thinking about the successful women I know, and why I actually rather like them.  Some of them I’ve known since before they were successful, and their success hasn’t made me like them less.  Some of them wouldn’t think of themselves as successful – and some of them you might not think are successful either.  But I do, and I have to say, I like them all.

So here, based on my own experience, are 10 reasons why I like successful women.  What’s not to like?

  • Successful women are usually fantastically good at their jobs.  They have to be.  Not one of the successful women I know has ever got to where she is just because she is a woman.  I like them for their ambition and their achievement and – yes – their gutsy success.
  • They are happy with themselves and who they are.  They’re self-aware.  They don’t pretend to be infallible, and they’re (usually, not always) the first to admit when they’ve got it wrong.
  • They’re not inhibited by hierarchy or fazed by power.  They’re pretty much the same person, whoever they’re meeting with.
  • They’re great at relationships and very well networked – and not only with people in positions of influence.  They have friends as well as colleagues at work.
  • They can be tough and uncompromising when they need to.  They are no push-over.
  • They’re optimistic – about themselves and their organisations.
  • They are great role models for my teenage daughter, and also for my son, both of whom found the question ‘Would you prefer to be successful or liked?’ almost impossible to answer.
  • They talk about their families, and they’re up-front and unabashed to let you know how much their children matter.
  • They’re generous with their success, giving up their time to mentor other women, as well as men.
  • They speak out about being a woman at work and about the barriers they’ve faced.  They rarely pretend it’s all been a breeze.

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