Confidence Should Be Applauded

I finally got around to reading the essay Laura Bennett wrote on her conversation with Kara Swisher.  Kara talked about the bad bosses and the good bosses she had over the years.  She laments that she was always confident and knew even at a young age that she was smarter than everyone else in the room and in the long run, she would surpass all the guys she was working for.

If you have ever met Kara, and I have, I am not surprised by any of this and I do hope that there are more women with this type of attitude who are coming up the ranks now.  She saw the unfair treatment of others and called it out.  She didn’t put up with bullshit.  She stuck to her guns and what worked for her.  That confidence put bad players back on their heels and unfortunately went elsewhere to pick on someone else to gratify their own ego and power.  We are seeing many of those types of players find themselves in situations where the crowd, more voices like Kara, call out that behavior to the point where many of those once powerful men are finding themselves with their platform pulled out from underneath them.  It is about time.

As women, we need to champion each other and applaud women, like Kara, who even at a young age of 21, who had her eye on leadership and success.  Nothing was going to stop her and she has the swagger to pull it off.

I think about my generation and my peers today.  Sometimes I think I am a 57-year-old living inside a 35-year-old head.  That has its pros and cons.  Many women at my age stopped working at one point to have children or sat back in their careers instead of putting their foot on the gas.  I do believe because of technology that things are changing and we are finding that men also want to think about their careers differently.  We can all be better balanced in life and the opportunities are beginning to exist for everyone based on what they want out of their careers regardless if you are a man or a woman.  It is heading that way.

My first job at Macy’s I was placed as the cosmetic manager in Kings Plaza Brooklyn.  I was a bull in a china shop, similar to Kara but in a completely different industry.  I did not follow the rules.  I was sassy, arrogant and expected myself to go places.  In this job, I worked for a woman who oversaw a third of the store.  I really was clueless about how to play politics and keep her informed.  I just did what I did and I happened to do it extremely well.  She came from a conservative Italian family and once she got pregnant, she never worked again.  One day, she pulled me in the head of HR’s office, another woman who I had very little respect for, and sat me down.  They told me that I was too aggressive to be in the retail industry.  I was flabbergasted.  I asked them what industry they think I should be in?  What was it that they wanted me to do?  They honestly gave me little to go with and when I left the office I knew what they were saying but thought that was how I was supposed to behave. I also knew that they did not know how to deal with a woman like me.  If I was a man, there is no way in hell that conversation would have taken place.

Instead of sitting back, I walked directly into the office of the women who ran the store.  She was one tough cookie, insanely smart, took no prisoners and went on to have an incredible career.  I told her what the two women had told me, that I was too aggressive and wasn’t sure what to do with that information.  She told me to soldier on and just keep them better informed on my day to day management of the business through memos but otherwise, she basically said, fuck them.  Fast forward 30 years, I met this woman for a coffee and of all the people she had working for her those years, she remembered me.  Made me realize that she saw something in me that others did not, and what is the worst is that other women tried to pull me down.

I wonder if I had been a man, what my career would have been like?  I see the men around me who are my age, and their patriarchy is always there.  Their bonds with other men are different than with women when it comes to talking business.  Sometimes I find it irksome and others time I just let it side off my back.  I am from a different generation.  My hope is that of all the women events, women conversations, women investments and everything else I have done over the years will have made an impact so that more women can act like Kara Swisher did when she entered the workforce and not have any pushback but an acknowledgment that this woman is going to go far and we should support her, get behind her and help her get as far as she wants to get from every person in the room, particularly the women.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    Joanne, “same.” I have been involuntarily recalling the BS-gaslight-y stuff I sort of went through somewhat unquestioningly earlier on in my career.. Taking a role before getting the title, and then being questioned in an office build-out about what size office I should have (i.e. the office assigned to a person with the more junior title). My boss backed me on this one.. Being called into an office of a *really* senior guy — who I think was clumsily trying to do the right thing for me and make sure I was comfortable (maybe) — and being told that because I had been promoted so fast and was viewed as successful, people might be assuming I was sleeping with my boss…. After years of being put into tough roles that nobody wanted, hitting/exceeding targets, being told I wasn’t “management material” by a newly-promoted senior guy, who suggested that I take a buy-out that was currently on the table across the company. His boss backed me that time, but it was a short-term win for me, as I realized that I’d never have the support to get anything done, and quit a while later…I really only hope that some of what I do today is helpful and useful for the next generation. Some days I’m heartened and encouraged. Others, not so much.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Some days.,.

      1. Anne Libby


  2. LE

    Honestly you never had the chance. The drive you have outranks being a man. Don’t ever forget that. And sure having kids is going to get in the way of things no question about that. So a woman has to decide that I think when she gets married. There are plenty of nice men who have no issue with having their wife be the bread winner. My wife’s ex husband was that person. He left a big law firm job (in NYC) that he got right out of college and wanted to stay at home with the kids. But she didn’t like that at all. Not the reason they got divorced (assault in short) but when she met me she liked the fact that I was not the person he was (as anyone knows this is the type of thing that happens 2nd time around). That I worked all the time. And yes she has a high level career btw.I come in contact with tons of men who are doing fine (to part of your point) but have no drive. That is where the opportunity is. Hustle beats gender all the time when you are doing your own thing. Sure in a corporate environment it isn’t great. So that is why you have to try to not be in that type of place if you are ‘a Joanne’.

  3. JLM

    .What is interesting about your anecdotes is that nobody took you under their wing and mentored you.I cannot tell you how many women I had working for me who I would have a senior member of the team take the junior under their wing and coax a better performance out of them.The biggest deficiency is life is not IQ; it is “I Will.”When you spot somebody who is willing to do stuff, the shrewd CEO ensures that that person is guided to strike a square blow. Which means that they don’t waste their energy by striking out in the wrong direction.A CEO, literally, coaxes excellence from their team.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. Erin Bagwell

    I love that this woman saw the powerhouse in you at a young age, and you were able to connect with her over coffee so many years later!

  5. jason wright

    even patriarchy is hierarchy. many a man has suffered in that system. only the few truly benefit.we all need to get beyond this lazy and hackneyed ‘white male’ reference point for all other agendas. It is itself racist and sexist. it has to stop. this is not an a la carte menu. universal rights apply to all.