Dangerous “Four Letter Words” for Women in Business

Posted January 8, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

Recently, my dear friend and Step Up Women’s Network’s Chicago Managing Director wrote “Call Me the F Word” on her Today’s Chicago Woman blog. The “F Word” in this case? Feminist. She calls to the carpet a number of celebrity women who have recently said they simply “aren’t feminists.” Cassandra’s blog post got me thinking. If “feminist” has become a four letter word for some in our culture, I started to think about other words for women that have become “four letters.”

Try these “four letter words” on for size:

  • Ambitious
  • Driven

How about these?

  • Balanced
  • Family oriented

Is it possible that women everywhere are doing far too much “unlabeling” of ourselves when perhaps we should (as Cassandra points out with the word feminist) wear our labels proudly? Think about these scenarios:

  • Somewhere in America there is a corporate woman who doesn’t want to look “too ambitious” but is also afraid to tell her boss she’s pregnant because she doesn’t want him or her to think she’s not dedicated enough. What would happen if we stopped labeling her, and she stopped labeling her, and we allowed mothers to be equally as ambitious as they are dedicated to their children?
  • Somewhere there is a college-aged woman who wants nothing more than to move to Manhattan and live a “climbing the ladder” lifestyle but is also being pressured to marry her college boyfriend, buy a house, and be a good wife. Should we demonize her for leaving “the perfect man” or “the perfect job”? Because with the four letter words the way they are, she’s not going to be praised for either choice.
  • There are thousands of men in America who rise fast and have families….why can they have it all, but we can’t. Could it be because they don’t see any of the above as “four letter words”?

What words are holding you back in your career? Are you trying to be more of this or less of that? Are you making crazy anti-feminist statements to make yourself seem young and carefree? All of these things are detrimental to women in general, and to women in business as a whole. Are you committing sins like these? If so, start to explore ways you can become what is not only good for you, but good for the gender, even if that means being a Militant Feminist Cutthroat Loving Mom Who Votes Republican. Phew! That’s a mouthful. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we didn’t judge or demonize that woman?


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."