Calling All Women Executives: Part 6 – Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling Without a Hammer

Don’t come off like a wife, girl friend, daughter or mother… instead be the strong, funny, wise and direct “big sister” that everyone wish they had.


The three takeaways that many of the women in the audience seemed to find most useful included:

  1. Be a Big Sister
    – In my executive advising role, my persona which seems to work very
    well with both women and men is being “the big brother you always
    wanted.”  I am fortunate to have two such big brothers, so this isn’t
    just a theoretical construct.  The qualities that they have and I try to
    emulate are: a) take charge; b) non-judgmental; c) not controlling; d)
    loving.  Just as this works better than having a father or son or
    husband persona, coming from a smart, strong and loving “big sister”
    persona instead of mother, wife, girl friend or daughter may work for
  2. Step Away from Being a Deer in the Headlights
    – When men act up by being degrading, dismissive, condescending, shut
    off or sullen that can often dumbfound you as a women and get you off
    balance.  At that point, you can feel and look like a deer in the
    headlights, which makes you even more vulnerable to such a man’s next
    volley of vitriol.  The reason men are able to do this is that women at
    their core come from oxytocin (which is about connecting and bonding)
    and estrogen (which is about nesting and building a home) while men come
    from adrenaline (which is about competing and winning) and testosterone
    (which is about aggression).  When a man is coming from winning and
    aggression towards your bonding and building instincts, it drive a wedge
    right into you, which is why you feel so appalled by their behavior. 
    The key here is to always be proud of coming from bonding, connecting
    and building.  Without it, we would all be savages.
  3. Go Ahead, Make My Day!
    – When you are faced with “men behaving badly” instead of being
    transfixed waiting for them to deliver their next insult, calmly,
    intently but not aggressively focus on their left eye’s pupil and iris. 
    Never take your eye off this.  As you are doing this imagine the
    following: a) that their left eye is connected to their right/emotional
    brain which is less in control and less controlling than their dominant
    right eye which like their right hand is connected to their left brain;
    b) as you are looking into their left eye imagine seeing the fear that
    usually lurks behind men’s aggression (the fear of being found out as
    not knowing what they’re talking about or the fear of being discovered
    to be self-centered, selfish, not caring about anyone else and worried
    that people will see it).  Keep looking into their left eye and after
    they have ranted or said something insulting to you, hoping to provoke
    you and push you off balance, pause for a few seconds (which will make
    them nervous, because you are on to them) and then say to them in your
    best, unperturbable, big sister voice: “What was THAT all
    about!”  If they become further agitated, because their m.o. hasn’t
    worked, and bark something else at you, respond with: “And THAT
    too! You seem really upset, what’s that all about?” You can keep doing
    this until it disarms them.  The key to it is your tone of voice.  One
    degree to the right towards the “b” word or left towards complaining and
    it will not work.

There are many other ways to be
formidable as a women without losing your femininity, but I hope those
three can get you started.

Women have always run the world, maybe it’s time to give them a chance at ruling it.  Could they do any worse than the men ?


About the author

Mark Goulston, M.D. is the Co-Fonder of Heartfelt Leadership a global community whose Mission of Daring to Care it dedicated to identifying, celebrating, developing and supporting heartfelt leaders who are as committed to making a difference as they are to making a profit


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