Should you take career advice from a man?

confident woman mentoring male colleague

Women need to be more confident.

Women get paid less because they don’t ask for raises or negotiate their pay. Women are too busy with family obligations to get ahead in the office.

Many of us have heard it all at one point or another. We’re doing it all wrong and we need to follow the better models and ways of doing things out there if we want to get ahead of the game and have a chance at success. Basically, we need to be “one of the guys”, and if we followed these paths to success, things would be ok, Because not enough women are doing them, we’re behind.

Like many women, I have received this well-meaning advice from professors and co-workers, usually men. What if it turns out that their advice has been wrong for the most part? Well, new research highlights why this might be the case. On everything from asking for equal pay to attending your child’s school play, it turns out that the men might not be right about how some of these tasks work for women.

Negotiating your pay (the right way)

Let’s take pay for example, for a long time the view was that women needed to do more and ask for more to get more pay.

However, research done by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co found that women do ask but they are penalized for asking and are labelled as “bossy, intimidating or aggressive.” Asking work against them. So, how do you get around this? Researchers have found that it is crucial for women to come to the negotiation prepared to explain the value of their work and what those services cost.

Another point is to frame the negotiations in relation to the organisation. A study by professors at the Harvard Kennedy School (full disclosure, I’m an alum) found that, “using relational accounts (i.e., explaining the legitimacy of the negotiation request in terms that were consistent with concern for organizational relationships) improved both social and negotiation outcomes for women, but not for men.” Now that companies in the UK have to report on salary information, and with companies like Glassdoor and sharing pay package information, there has never been a better time to negotiate.

Family affairs

When it comes to family obligations, one might be confused in thinking that men don’t have kids. Work-life balance and work-family issues are often synonymous with “women’s issues”. The reality is that even without kids everyone has family problems at some point.

A parent might be ill or a sibling may be struggling. So, what can women do to support family and career at the same time? We know that women are often penalized for having kids, while it is beneficial for men. One interesting point for both men and women is that those who are successful generally focus on work/life integration and generally don’t ask permission for flexibility – they just take it. Men especially would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. Maybe there are models that both sexes can follow after all!

Which path?

So, it looks like in some ways – like with pay requests – men and women need to do things differently. However, there are key similarities – like not calling attention to taking time out for a family event – where most people can benefit. The real onus is on each of us to stay on top of research and updates if we want to get ahead in our jobs. Career advice is not male or female, but rather about taking all advice with a grain of salt and doing your homework.

About the author

Joy Adams is a blogger and one of WATCs 2015 Rising Stars. She is a British-American businesswoman who has worked in both the public and private sectors in the US and UK. Joy currently serves on the Advisory Board for Vital Voices Europe, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing women leaders. She also writes a lifestyle blog for budding philanthropists and art collectors at

The Workher blog is all about taking your work life to the next level with practical tips and details on the latest news about pay, progression, and opportunities.






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