You’re Too Aggressive for This (Aggressive) Job

By Sallie Krawcheck

I’m at the “organize old boxes of documents” stage of quarantine. (For me, it came right after the “make all my mom’s baked goods to evoke the simpler days of my childhood” stage but before the “re-binge-watch ‘Breaking Bad’” stage.)

I found one of my old 360-degree performance reviews, from a job that … didn’t work out so well. I remember receiving the document and paging through it during my performance review meeting.

It said that I was too aggressive — but not assertive enough, and thus I needed to be more aggressive.

I sh*t you not. It sort of felt like an episode of “The Office,” except that it was my career and it wasn’t remotely funny.

Even worse, I asked my boss in that review — who was a CEO, btw — for his coaching on how I should navigate through being both “too aggressive” and “needing to be more aggressive.” He told me I would need to figure that out myself.

Again, I sh*t you not.

I know a lot more now than I did then about this catch-22. I know that our society expects women to be caregivers and our executives to be performance drivers. I know that people who don’t experience this can find it hard to understand this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t “double bind” that women and BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) can face in the workplace.

I also know that it’s pretty hard to, you know, stop being “too aggressive,” while “being more aggressive” simultaneously. Believe me, I tried.

Let’s keep this in mind as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate is announced. And most particularly if she is a Black woman.

Prepare for “Yes, I definitely was in favor of a woman as VP candidate, but not thaaaaatttt woman VP candidate.”

TIME’S UP* is doing a good job of calling out media bias in covering women politicians: noting that Stacey Abrams has been called “overly ambitious,” Kamala Harris has been called “inauthentic” and has been knocked for her ambitions, and Elizabeth Warren has the added sins of being “too needy, too much,” in addition to being — you know it — “too ambitious.”

You may not like one of these women. You may not like a few of them. But if you say you are in favor of a woman candidate but then you find some fault with each of them, it’s time for a serious look at yourself. And time for a recognition that so many of us have been socialized to have mixed feelings — at best — about women in power and women seeking power.

Which is exactly what running for vice president happens to be all about.

*Disclosure: I’m on the Global Leadership Board of TIME’S UP.

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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.