I enjoyed a very good Sunday brunch at La Urbana on Divisidero, one of the seemingly millions of new restaurants to open in the wake of San Francisco’s latest tech boom. Pricey, yes (you learn to expect that at brunch places on Divizz), but the portions are quite substantial and very well done (the “house made” sausage was at least twice as big as I expected). But just as tasty–the conversation at the table next to me.
“The thing is, she is so aggressive, all the time. She is always pushing her employees and herself. Driven. You should hear her do sales presentations. She is so passionate, she always pushes for the best deals.” And so on and so on.
You’ve probably heard women executives described in this fashion all the time.
Except you haven’t.
If you have any misconceptions, put them aside. Every single word of this monologue was spoken as praise. This probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, very, very old, but I hear women executives described with this vocabulary all of the time, but never as praise always as criticism. This has struck me as unfair for a long time–many Apple employees loved Steve Jobs for how rough he could get, he sometimes making them cry–but in the past, when I’ve heard women described as aggressive and/or pushy, it always sounded like a complaint and not a compliment.
The demographics at this table might interest the sociologists amongst you. Two heterosexual couples, the men looked 30-35, the women looked 25-30. The speaker was one of the women. Another detail that interested me, but probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, very, very old. The men did not interrupt. They just listened, and nodded, not speaking until she had finished.
People can and have said and written much about how the tech boom has negatively changed San Francisco. Have you heard of the documentary Million Dollar Shack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjXUBMkkE8). Amazing well produced effort and well worth a look. But the tech culture has yielded some positive changes as well, and praising women for aggressiveness counts among them.
Vonn Scott Bair