What’s the Big Idea?
Tara Sophia Mohr has a challenge for working women. “You’re brilliant and thoughtful, but could you move a few more inches in the arrogant idiot direction please?”
Be an arrogant idiot is rule #5 of Mohr’s 10 Rules for Brilliant Women, a blog post that went viral last year, turning the writer and leadership coach into a minor internet celebrity (she has 3,538 followers on Twitter and her services are fully-booked). Each of the rules is a specific and actionable step in the process of advocating powerfully for your perspective. But it’s #5 that gets the most response.
Of course, Mohr knows you’re not really going to be arrogant, because the first rule of brilliant women is that they don’t know they’re brilliant. Still, the advice resonates: “What most women are seeing in the workplace is a bunch of guys throwing out half-formed ideas, not particularly well-thought out, yet they’re rallying everyone and getting tons of resources put behind them while many women are waiting for their idea to be more researched, more perfect.”
Mohr came up with the ten rules in twenty minutes, after a lifetime of listening to clients and friends share thoughts and opinions with her that could have “transformed their organizations” had they been voiced to bosses and co-workers. She asked herself, what is holding such amazing women back from communicating their vision? And more importantly, “how can we get the conversations that are happening [in private] to actually come to being?”
What’s the Significance?
Women now constitute about 46% of the workforce and earn 57% of undergraduate degrees. “Unfortunately, we live in a culture where competence and likability have an inverse relationship for a woman,” says Mohr.
The gender gap shows up not just in a difference in wages, but in “the way our institutions are structured, the way the workplace is structured. We live in a patriarchal culture. Things are changing, but our workplaces still come from a model that was built for men. Sometimes a tentativeness arises out of the feeling that this whole place, this whole field, this whole university isn’t built in a way that feels consonant with my sensibility about human beings.”
A recent report showed that female university students in the EU expect (accurately) to earn less than men once they graduate. The study also showed that men placed more importance on prestige and being a leader or manager, while women preferred to work for a company with high corporate social responsibility and ethical standards.
But bringing a different perspective to your field is no reason to settle for a lower income. Salary is how we express the value of work, and what Mohr really means when she advises women to be arrogant is that they should never underestimate their value in the world.