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Devil Wears Prada

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Today I heard another vicious story about the "older" woman at work. You know her; she's the woman who thinks of Miranda Priestly as a role model. Miranda, played flawlessly by Meryl Streep in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada", runs a boot camp for her younger employees. Her approach combines a demeaning and imperious attitude with a thinly veiled disdain for her attractive, younger and certainly more technologically competent, employees. I guess these women, described by my younger colleagues as the "old babes", didn't get the memo -- the "Queen Bee" is dead.

Hostility will derail even the most competent woman executive. So, note to any QBs out there: the young, smart and competent women in your organization will out tech you at the first opportunity. The men, too. Then they will leave you and your company as soon as the next decent offer comes along. Your peers, male and female alike, will lose respect for you, roll their eyes at your behavior and call you nasty names. So, let's make a deal and bury this ridiculous women's leadership style today.

The term "Queen Bee" was coined by academics to describe a woman who, as the first and only woman in in her company to enter the "C" suite receives some perverse pleasure in making other women, particularly the younger women (and men too if she can get away with it) feel inferior, stupid and not tough enough to make it to the top. I'm sure you've met someone like this or, poor you, worked for her. She thinks being tough will show others what a strong leader she is, and she's wrong. Her obsession with toughness only reveals how threatened and insecure she is.

I wonder if this wasn't a factor in Hillary's stymied bid to become president. She was competent, smart and experienced, but she also exuded entitlement. Barack, she thought, well, he didn't understand and yikes, he hadn't earned it! She thought her role as the first "twofer" with Bill in the White House gave her clear path to the big job. When I saw her drinking shots with the guys in Pennsylvania I knew it was over. We don't need to prove we can drink with them. We need to prove we can think like them and deliver results. She is doing a great job as secretary of state but her attitude killed her chances.

And, it can kill yours, too.

Many among the first wave of educated women entering the workforce after the excitement of the sixties and the women's liberation movement faced blatant discrimination and harassment. Every professional woman over fifty can tell some powerful war stories. It was hard. It took guts and a strong stomach. But, that's old news. Well, not completely, we still face subtle discrimination practices for sure but there has been progress. Older and more experienced women must shift the style of the past and serve as the role models we searched for early in our own careers.

I work with both women and men in executive roles. A few years ago I worked with a woman who was sincerely confused about how she should act in her new role as a member of the senior executive team. The only other woman (who had been the one and only for ten years) took my client aside to give her some advice. "Learn how to play golf, drink whiskey during the off site card games, and keep 'being a woman' to a minimum." Be very tough if you want to gain respect, she told



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