Well, let’s get the answer to this question out of the way quickly. That’s a big, honkin’ NO. Women in the workplace should NOT be—or try to be—more like men.


But while the answer to that question is easy, the overall topic of women in the workplace is a bit difficult for me, and here’s a big reason why: One the one hand, I resist generalizing and lumping all women in the workplace (or men, for that matter) into one big bucket. On the other hand, though, I coach a lot of men AND women, and I do see a trend: Of those I coach, women—more so than men—struggle with how they want to show up at work.


And it’s not usually an explicit struggle. My women clients don’t complain about how men have it so easy or how they’d be so much more effective if gender didn’t matter—not at all. I just notice that they tend to be less clear in expressing who they want to be at work compared to what I see in my men clients.


Many factors influence how we show up at work, so it’s hard to say what might be the crux of the issue. Maybe it’s that neither men nor women in the workplace have made up their collective minds about the “right” way for women to behave and be present. I don’t pretend to have nailed down the cause, but I do know a couple of things about the solution:


First, the solution is NOT for women to be more like men or emulate traits that we traditionally associate with male strength.


Second, the solution includes women (and men) showing up more authentically. In other words: Be more like your true self. Of course, this means you need to know who you are and what’s important to you in life and at work. And it also means you need to communicate those things in a genuine way, with your words and with your actions.


I’m not saying the solution is easy. If it were, showing up authentically at work wouldn’t be such common coaching fodder for my clients. But whether you’re a man or woman, I do believe people respond more positively when you’re being your true self at work rather than trying to be what you think you should in order to be accepted or successful.


Want to read a good article about men, women, and bias in the workplace that prompted me to write about this topic? Check out Clear and Effective Communication Techniques for Women in the Workplace Nell Minow at the Huffington Post.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.