Men are seen for their potential. Women, on the other hand, are more often seen for our abilities in the job at hand. And why not? As long as we feel needed and appreciated, we stay in the same job indefinitely.

My friend Laura was a middle manager in a female job track at a large insurance company. She had been there 17 years and had worked her way into her current position. She was pretty fed up with office politics and the obvious discrimination against women in her firm. She was frustrated by the slow-moving process to get things accomplished. She was offered a job as office manager at a small insurance agency. The working conditions, pay, and recognition in the new position would seem to make the decision easy. She accepted the new position and resigned from her old one. The executives she worked for came to her with praise for her work, telling her how much she was needed in her current job and how much she would be giving up in job security. Their tactics worked. She decided not to make the move, but to keep her old job, even though the executives offered only approval – no promotion, no increase in pay. How many men in her shoes would make the same decision? How many executives would insult a man by trying to convince him to stay on, with no additional incentive? Unfortunately, this is the history of women in the work force, and we live up to our reputation all too often. We are so addicted to the approval of others that we make needless sacrifices to gain that approval. In the end, we often have nothing but a pat on the back.

Men and women in "men's jobs" do not perform their job simply for the approval of the boss, nor do they stay in a job for that reason. Instead, they use their skills and abilities as bargaining chips for another job or pay level. They may not cash in those chips every day, but they are less likely to be satisfied with an "atta boy." We must no longer be satisfied with an "atta boy" either.


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