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TONI THORNE: ‘Nice girls don’t take corner office’


TONI THORNE: ‘Nice girls don’t take corner office’

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I SAW TWO MEMES on Instagram this week that hit me like a stack of bricks. The first one read: “You think everyone has the same heart as you and that is what will continue to mess you up.” The other one was a famous quote from the Netflix success, Orange is The New Black which stated: “You can’t spend your whole life holding the door open for people and then being angry they didn’t thank you. Nobody asked you to hold the door in the first place.”

Growing up, I always heard the saying: “Nice girls don’t get the corner office”. At the risk of sounding bitter, I must agree to a significant extent with this saying.  

This year, I celebrate a decade of being in business and being a baptized Christian. Quite recently, a business associate lamented that her walk has been hard trying to be a good business woman and a good Christian simultaneously. I have also heard a few hardworking female entrepreneurs state that their life would be better if they went down to Sandy Lane and found a rich man to support them. To them, the stress of being a female in business seemed not to be worth it. The latter thought, in my opinion, is a bit extreme.

When I hear the word ‘nice’, it always comes across as very disingenuous. It appears as baseless and lacking in substance. What really is ‘nice’?

I associate being a ‘nice’ person with someone who gets along with everyone (first mistake) and someone who avoids conflict (second mistake). These days, I prefer to be a good person rather than being a nice person.

Firstly, everyone’s friend is nobody’s friend and nobody has walked a path where everyone got along with her. This is not to say that one should look for enemies.

Secondly, being a good person means having some sense of integrity. There will be times when acting with integrity, conflict will arise. Speaking out on issues which need addressing and looking out for your fellow man and yourself, are all a part of living a good life.

It must be noted that not focusing on being nice does not mean that you aim to be a b-word. Once again, there is a difference between being a good person and a ‘nice’ person.

Women have greater opportunities in this era. However, from a global perspective, there is still a very thick glass ceiling in the business and corporate world. When a man is confident, this is seen as an asset.

When a woman is confident in business, she is seen as arrogant and many efforts are often taken to “tek she down a few notches”.

Regardless of how many times Drake shouts out boss ladies in his hit track Back To Back and encourages us to “hit ‘em with the prenup!”, issues with the glass ceiling and females’ behaviour in business still exist.

Some believe that negotiation must have some level of flirtation or confrontation. This is not the case. When negotiating, we are not less than a woman if we refuse to flirt with our business associates. This takes the focus off the business and in its own way, is a subtle form of prostitution because one is using one’s sexuality for opportunity. No Bueno.

On the other hand, I have found that in an effort to assert ourselves in business situations, some of us tend to be overly aggressive. This often backfires. I often find that we also justify malicious actions as being “strictly business”. We cannot allow petty issues to affect our relationships and operations in business. These actions thicken the glass ceiling and take us even further from the corner office.

In critically assessing the statement: “Nice girls don’t take the corner office”, I concluded that this statement is true. Nice girls may not take the corner office because they may be focused on being liked and avoiding pertinent issues in the name of “avoiding office politics” and “drama”.

However, I know many good girls who take corner offices. These are good girls who negotiate fiercely with business associates, act with integrity, are confident, filled with independent thought and according to Sheryl Sandberg, they “lean in”.

Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email [email protected]