Is the Passion Good or Bad Thing in Career Management?

wings-1940245.jpgI am a woman. Who I am, the way I think and operate is gender specific to some extent. I am ambitious, hard working and I have a clear vision of who I want to be in the future.   I am proud of my career accomplishments. I go against the mainstream and confront issues and people without hesitation. I have never been “9am-5pm” person, I invest a lot of energy to go above and beyond for the sake of the teams and organizations I work for. I consider myself a very passionate professional. I am attached emotionally to my job, and I care deeply about my colleagues, business, and customers. Sometimes, I allow my job to get under my skin. I am not indifferent to my work environment and company culture. I try to serve as an example to others, but I am not ideal and make mistakes, like any other person. Passion to me is a tool, enabler of self-fueling. Staying passionate and emotionally invested translates to my high performance at work.

But is being passionate objectively a good thing? Is it helping me or hurting me in business & corporate life?

First, let me say that there is a lot of generalization and wrong opinions about women in business. Women generally struggle in getting to the top/executive management level. Ultimately, it should not be a surprise. The world makes a very slow but steady progress in embracing the concept of a gender diversity. I decided to share few interesting facts and new studies related to women & their careers, just to put things into perspective:

  • Women in Switzerland gained the right to vote in federal elections after a referendum in 1971.
  • While women make up 51.5% of all managers, much fewer women rise to the C-suite. A survey of 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates found that although male and female graduates had similar levels of ambition, men were significantly more likely to have positions in senior management, direct reports, and profit-and-loss responsibility.
  • High-Class hobbies will help a man to land a top job, same does not apply if you are a woman. This is a finding of the new study reported in the American Sociological Review, lead-authored by Lauren Rivera, an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and author of Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs. Higher-class woman wanting the top job was perceived as she might just be “looking for a husband” until she could leave the job and “become a stay-at-home mom.”
  • New research has shown that women who don’t change their names when they get married are perceived by other people to be much less committed to their marriages than those who do.

Secondly, my experience to date is that men in a work environment get away with a lot more than women. Gender stereotypes still hurt women. Being passionate is equal with being emotional which is perceived by men as a negative characteristic and sign of weakness. During my career, I witnessed many power fights and passive-aggressive (or aggressive) behaviors which were considered acceptable at an executive level, but for men only. Women are always expected to act differently. Be soft, emotionless, professional, never indicating the frustration or anger. Women’s passion seems to be considered an undesired attribute. Being confrontational is behavioral and cultural ‘no-go’ and appears to be reserved for men.

Most likely, due to the above reasons, I was advised by one of the former female bosses to keep my passion at bay. To this day, I have not taken that advice under my consideration. I do not feel I ever should change, mask who I am and join the army of emotionless business clones. My parents brought me up with no gender stigma. I was growing up in a patriarchy-free system. My country of birth, Poland, is today the best performer in the EU in the level of gender diversity among its senior management, with 37 percent of senior management jobs held by women.

Yet, I have discovered throughout the years, as I advanced my career, the reality is a bit different than I was taught as a young adult. Gender bias turned out to be a cultural and globally widespread predicament. There are so many public companies with executive boards including only men, or companies where female leadership is limited to HR (“women can take care of others”) or legal function (“women are either w***s or b***s”).

It is important to point out that those gender stereotypes are and can be shaped by mothers, wives, and daughters, not only by men. It is essential the women stay united and supportive of each other and maintain the passion towards our jobs and careers. Ultimately, having an emotional side is what makes us human, diverse, caring and successful.

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