Thinkruptor Book Review: Exploring ‘The Myth of the Nice Girl’
This is an abridged review of The Myth of the Nice Girl by Fran Hauser, originally published in the June 2018 issue of Thinkruptor Magazine. For the full piece, more reviews, and exclusive in-depth interviews with tech entrepreneurs and business leaders, download the Thinkruptor app and subscribe.
“Unfortunately, sexism is alive and well in the workplace, and women are asked to run errands, get coffee, and do favors far more often than men. Obviously, this can be demeaning and a waste of our time. Yet, part of being likeable and authentically nice is being helpful and going out of your way for others. So where do you draw the line?” – Fran Hauser, The Myth of the Nice Girl
To any woman working in a business environment, reading Fran Hauser’s new book The Myth of the Nice Girl will be a deeply personal experience. It can’t not be. Though Hauser is not the average woman in business, she tells a story that every woman is intimately familiar with. In this, her debut book, she writes about what we all know, seldom tell anyone, and have only recently started speaking out openly about.
Nice girls (can) finish first
Now a startup investor who tends to keep an eye out for female-founded companies, Hauser was a long-time media executive, starting her career at Ernst & Young, then developing it at Time Inc.’s PEOPLE, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, as well as AOL and Moviefone. A vocal advocate for women in business and a mentor to young women, it’s taken Hauser a while to speak up in such detail – probably because she is, inherently and naturally, just too nice.
In telling my side of this story in the original writing of this review published in the digital edition of Thinkruptor Magazine, I don’t for a moment digress from Hauser’s book. I just happen to be on the other, not-so-nice side of the coin that is the fight for equality in the business world. Hauser’s book opens with a chapter titled, “Nice Is Your Superpower.” Nice may not be my personal superpower, but it is a superpower and one that is widespread and so terribly underused among women.
How nice is ‘too nice’?
Hauser opens up to tell us about how she inherited the ‘nice’ gene from both her parents, perhaps more so from her father than her mother, an immigrant entrepreneur herself. Then she goes on to talk about how to combine nice with strong, to get it just right. She explains that being ambitious and being likeable can coexist, even in business.
But even Hauser admits that there is such a thing as being ‘too nice’. “It’s possible to take niceness too far, both at work and beyond,” Hauser explains. “If we allow ourselves to become pushovers, then our kindness stops being an asset and becomes a liability.” Likeability is a great asset and a coveted talent, as long as it doesn’t turn into people pleasing.
In a day and age in which movements like #metoo and top executives finally losing their jobs and careers for sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace, Hauser’s book is long overdue. Most women in the workforce today were born into a world in which, they were told, they had just as many rights and opportunities as anyone else. By the time any of us were out of high school, we knew this to be false. It took us over half a century to speak out about it publicly and (relatively) unafraid of retaliation, with the #metoo movement symbolically behind us.
We need more kindness and understanding in business today. We need to hear everyone out. We need to look for and invite opposing opinions, especially from those who sit in meetings, nodding their heads most often and speaking up the least, whether they be male or female. We need more nice in the world.
Hauser doesn’t just write about women in the workplace. She writes about the quiet people. She writes about the colleagues at work who do more listening than speaking, going unnoticed most days. The ones who might have great ideas they’ll never tell you about. And the ones you can most often count on and trust. Business is all about trust. Which is why The Myth of the Nice Girl is a must-read for anyone who plans on spending their life building a career in any area of business.
‘The Myth of the Nice Girl’ by Fran Hauser is available here.
EXCERPT from The Myth of the Nice Girl
So why do so many women still subconsciously sabotage their own success by not speaking up? For one thing, women who do speak assertively are often perceived as being overly aggressive or pushy — a double standard that makes it difficult for women to know how to voice their opinions without seeming opinionated in a negative way to their peers. This goes back to a tendency to want to please others. Taking a stand will inevitably alienate someone — or so we assume — so instead we play it safe, act as people pleasers, and keep quiet.
This people-pleasing habit often begins in childhood. According to research by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., when girls are between the ages of eight and twelve, they first become aware of how others perceive them and start “camouflaging” what they really think and feel in order to blend in better with their peers. These girls don’t want to stand out, so they stop speaking up and voicing their opinions and start acting like everyone else in order to please others and fit in.[…]
This may seem like a normal part of being a teenager, but its long-range impact can actually be very damaging. When girls begin camouflaging their true selves, just as their identities are developing, they lose out on an important chance to discover what they really think and feel and how to best express that. As a result, despite decades of women’s empowerment messaging, many women in the workplace still struggle with this tendency to camouflage, hide, or dilute their thoughts and ideas rather than communicate them directly.