In celebration of nasty women and b*itches!

Strong women have been in the headlines and I applaud them.

From “power hungry, ambitious” and the next US VP Kamala Harris to Alexandra Ocasio Cortex being called out of her name for standing her ground.

Name calling and derogatory comments seems to be the go to strategy when men (and some women) feel threatened by strong women.

I really wish they’d opt for some originality, as for women in leadership this name calling is nothing new. Fact is if you’re a female leader or a woman wielding any power, at some point in your career you will be given an alternative title (usually b*tch) mainly by men but on occasion women too.

I’ve been called a b*tch a fair amount of times in my career. The first time I was upset — in fact I was called a black b*tch — meant to be double insulting. I wasn’t supposed to hear it and it hit me hard. As a leader, I’d always aimed to be fair and ethical in doing my job and didn’t think I deserved to be called it. But I took it on the chin and shrugged it off. Back then, you really didn’t report those kinds of incidents, it just came with the territory and if you wanted to get ahead you didn’t want to seen as someone who couldn’t take “it”. It being the capacity to be a leader and take the rough with the smooth!

The term “b*tch” was unoriginally used as a slang term towards a woman who is seen as unreasonable, bossy, aggressive or strong-willed. My guess is that the word was intended to hurt women into being the ‘perfect female’ which meant that they were submissive.

If I was to call a man a b*itch they would see it as an insult a real blow to their manhood.

Being a b*tch has served me well in my career. Often the word is associated with traits like assertiveness, drive, tactlessness and being non-apologetic, admittedly I’ve displayed some of those traits but no more than a man would have in the circumstances.

At one point I would have reclaimed it, creating an acronym to lessen the blow — Bold, Intelligent, Tenacious, Courageous, Honest, blasting Missy Elliot’s anthem — “She’s a B*tch”. But that’s masking the problem, in someway allowing ourselves to be shamed into compliance by accepting the term and we shouldn’t allow anyone to have that level of power over us.

All the acronyms in the world won’t change the meaning of b*tch, until we remove its perceived power.

As a female leader, name calling won’t the be only obstacle faced, there’ll be;

  • unconscious biases,
  • gender pay gaps,
  • less representation at the table where important decisions are made,
  • personal decisions as to how you balance your desire for a career and have a family and more.

These are all bigger challenges, so rise above the name calling and see it for what it is;

  • unacceptable,
  • a reflection of the name caller’s insecurities (after all you got under their skin),
  • them showing their true nature (so now you know what you’re dealing with)
  • and in no way allow it to get in the way of your goals.

I will continue to equip women with the skills and fortitude to navigate their careers with confidence.

So join me in celebrating strong women everywhere.

Registration for Purpose|Power|Presence — The Leadership Program for Female Game Changers is open — specially developed to help women build their leadership capability and presence, develop their strategic thinking, enhance professional influence and harness their skill set. Talk to me about how the program can support you in your leadership career by clicking HERE.

Janice Sutherland is an award winning women’s leadership expert and founder of This Woman Can an online community for professional women. She provides coaching and training specializing in helping women and organizations build leadership skills through Executive Mentorship, Leadership Training and Executive Team Facilitation for both corporate executives and entrepreneurs globally. She is a sought after keynote presenter for corporate and nonprofit environments and speaks on issues relating to leadership, women’s advancement, professional success and work/life alignment. For more details, visit www.janicesutherland.com

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