The Likeability Trap

Jyoti Shekar 

When a man becomes more successful, he becomes more likeable. When a woman becomes more successful, she becomes less likeable. – says Rachel Thomas, CEO and Co-founder of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org.

Rings a bell?

I wish I had a penny for every time someone called me aggressive, scary, dominant, over-ambitious and grumpy; just because I did not like to laugh around or take it easy while I was in the middle of an important transaction. How many times have we heard that female bosses are scary to work with?

88097436_10206338116447935_2931316996291166208_oBack to Rachel, she had come to Delhi this month for a Lean In Conference along with Emma Macan Roberts, Head of Lean In Circles and Company Engagement globally and Hema Gokal, the APAC Region Lead for Lean In Circles and Company Engagement.

In a fireside chat moderated by Rashmeet Kaur, co-founder of Lean In India, Rachel spoke about her journey with Lean In and how Lean In is focusing on changing lives of women through sisterhood support and Lean In circles which are small groups of people who come together for peer coaching, peer mentoring or learning things from each other.

16071764._UY475_SS475_For those who do not know, Lean In was started when Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book with the same name, talking about women and the corporate world. Thus forming the Lean In community.

Rachel has always been active in helping other women and when she stumbled upon Sheryl, she took the first step and reached out to her. And since Rachel was already working in a lot of startups before that in California, it was like a match made in heaven. And soon Rachel became an integral part of the Lean In family.

In her talk, Rachel quoted an interesting anecdote which makes one think about what kind of a world we are living in and what we want to leave our kids with. Recently Rachel had a conversation with her daughter where she explained that her mom and dad work equally hard. But the more successful her dad gets, the more he will be loved. But people usually dislike, rather resent, her mom if she gets more successful. And then asked her what she would do in that situation.

Her daughter replied with clarity that she would rather be liked by all instead of being successful!

A big Eureka moment for Rachel! An immediate realisation that there is a lot to be done in this area for women to be independent from validation of other people.

Women can be and should be as ambitious as they want to be, not worrying about their popularity index.

But unfortunately, that’s what happens in today’s world, especially to young, impressionable girls. They systematically underestimate themselves in order to be more likeable – the likeable bias. And that is when reality hits that It is not enough to have ‘woke’ parents, it is important to be that responsible uncle, aunt, teacher or friend, because as you know, it takes a village to raise a child!

About Lean In – Lean In Circles are designed to be safe spaces for women to share and find support for their personal lives, business or workplace issues. In addition to this, Lean In does a lot of research on women in the workplace through storytelling backed by data and data analytics. Watch this space to know more about their next effort revolving around young girls, to be launched very soon.

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