Do Women Need to Be Tough to Excel in Business?

vixen in business energy

This is the second blog in a four-part series that I’m writing about women in business. Each blog in the series focuses on VIBE, or Vixen in Business Energy. Make sure not to miss the rest by signing up for our blog here


When I was a young attorney working for one of the largest law firms in Atlanta many years ago, there was one female partner who used components of her feminine energy—friendliness, flirtatiousness—to either get what she wanted from the male partners or make friends with the females in the office. She was one of 50 partners and really prided herself on being “one of the boys” (masculine energy). She stood up to the male partners, she spoke up when she thought we were headed in the wrong direction with a case, she worked non-stop and she never EVER showed emotion”. In fact, when she smiled, it was uncomfortable, like she had just learned how.

At the time, I was engaged to an Italian however, the female partner thought we were already married. 

One evening, I took my fiance to a work event and introduced him to this female partner. When he moved on to chat with someone else, this sole female partner said, “Oh my God April! He must be good in bed!” As if that was a totally normal thing to say to an employee. 

Not only did her question cross a pretty universal boundary (don’t ask employees about their sex lives), but it was a highly inappropriate comment. Could you imagine saying that to a female that you know in your business world? How’s your partner in bed? And then an elbow bump or a poke in the ribs? No. 

This is an extreme example of what happens when women in business lean too far into their masculine energy—they start saying things that aren’t them. They take on the personality of the males that they’re trying to play with. They start thinking overly aggressively and overly sexually. Again, an extreme example. 

These days, moving too far into masculine energy is a little more subtle. Today it looks more like ignoring your intuition; not touching in with your employees’ inner lives (and understanding how those affect business); and focusing more on your ego than expanding the greater consciousness. 

On the Vixen blog, I’ve talked about how women adapt male energy in order to “make it” in male dominated industries. We are taught from a young age that in order to succeed in business we need to be tough. But what is tough? And is it an emotional suit of armour that works for women? 


What Does Tough Really Mean?

What does a tough, iconic business woman look like to you? The first that comes to mind is Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of fictitious fashion magazine, Runway, in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Do you remember her? Meryl Streep as Priestly. Tall in spine, regal in appearance, smarter than anyone in the room with NO intention or instinct to bring others up with her. Miranda is most certainly tough, a moniker Merriam-Webster defines as:

“Difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with.” 

Or, more gently, “Characterized by severity or uncompromising determination.” 

In the case of Miranda, difficult to deal with and/or “characterized by severity or uncompromising determination” means treating people horribly. Her fictitious biography says, ​​”Priestly's cruel treatment of staff causes a high turnover rate among personal assistants.”

So why do all women in business think that to stay where they are, they need to be tough? Difficult to deal with, uncompromising and maybe a little cruel?


Why Do We Think We Need To Be Tough?

Because getting here was fucking tough! 

You know it and I know it. So do the statisticians, some of whom recently found that women are 14 percent less likely to be promoted than men and are “constantly judged as having less leadership potential than their male counterparts.” 

But as I mentioned in my last blog, it’s not about negatively targeting men. It’s about helping women see the lovely difference between male and female energy because the more they see it, the more primed they are to move into their feminine energy. And what happens when you spend more time in your feminine energy? You spend more time living in your superpower. 


What Could a Feminine Version of ‘Tough’ Look Like?

First of all, the word wouldn’t be tough and the feeling would be more like that of a mama bear than the images we associate with “tough.” Mama bears are not aggressive, they are protective and they take care of their children. In fact, when women are in their feminine energy and needing to discipline children, the kids are more responsive. Why? Because they feel safe. When a woman (or anyone) disciplines a child from a place of masculine energy, the kids aren’t as responsive because they don’t feel safe. 

A feminine version of tough or mama bear would be stating your boundaries and sticking to them. It would look like standing your ground without being aggressive. It would look like solving problems by asking questions of an adversary rather than challenging them.

This mama bear character that’s replacing masculine “toughness” is confident, open to receiving and comfortable in her own skin. 

Need a little less tough and a little more mama bear? Let’s chat!


Takeaway: Tips for Sticking to Your Boundaries 

One way to embrace your mama bear is to practice creating and then sticking to boundaries. This can be hard at first, but absolutely awesome once you start doing it. Here’s some tips for sticking to your boundaries. 

  1. Tell the people in your life what they are so everyone is aware of them
  2. Listen to your thoughts and emotions. Even if your head isn’t always clear that one of your boundaries is being crossed, your heart knows
  3. Let people know when they’ve been crossed
  4. Reconsider a relationship with someone who crosses them more than twice


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