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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Bitchy bosses go to boot camp
Calista Flockhart and Gil Bellows star in the Fox series, Ally McBeal
Are successful women more bitchy than men?
By BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter, David Schepp

Ever since women started making inroads into US corporate boardrooms in the 1970s, some have been highly criticised for being too pushy - even bitchy.

Female executives, who make up just 12% of the total in the US, often cite their ability to be tough and direct as the reason for their upward mobility and eventual success.

And that same straight-forwardness can eventually lead to problems.

While aggressiveness is generally viewed as a positive trait within men who hold key positions in corporate America, it is often viewed negatively when expressed by women executives.

With that in mind, a programme has developed to help women executives become softer - call it a boot camp.

'Bully Broads' and 'Ice Queens'

At the Growth and Leadership Centre (GLC) in California's Silicon Valley, a programme called the "Bully Broads" has been created to address the problem of overly assertive women executives in today's workplace.

Growth and Leadership Centre president Jean Hollands
Author Jean Hollands believes women can rise to the top and be nice
It was spearheaded by author and GLC founder and president Jean Hollands in the late 1990s.

Touted as a scheme for "exceptional women who want to share and learn from each other", the course instructs attendees on how not to sabotage their careers as they climb the corporate ladder.

Some of the techniques Ms Hollands administers include speaking more softly and deliberately and relying on self-deprecating humour to diffuse tense situations.


Not that the "Bully Broads" programme is without its detractors.

Some have called the title politically incorrect, while others say it merely adds to the perception that somehow female executives have to be more adroit at their jobs than their male counterparts.

Ms Hollands, however, is unapologetic and has said women in the workplace - just like mothers in the home - are expected to display greater people skills.

The "Bully Broads" sessions are just one part of a three-month leadership programme GLC offers male and female executives in need of career rehabilitation.

Click here to view the top 10 US companies with the most women bosses


Corporate clients pay as much as $18,000 for each employee the centre takes on.

Unfortunately, many successful women are discovering too late that those same qualities that propelled them up the corporate ladder can just as easily ruin them

Jean Hollands
GLC founder
GLC's clients are a veritable Who's Who of high-tech US corporations, including firms such as Intel, Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems.

The programme is the source for Ms Hollands' latest book "Same Game, Different Rules", due out in September and which has the subtitle, "How to get ahead without being a bully broad, ice queen or Ms Understood".

In her book, Ms Hollands writes: "Unfortunately, many successful women are discovering too late that those same qualities that propelled them up the corporate ladder can just as easily ruin them in today's relationship-building, teamwork-oriented, corporate structure."

Scaring people

GLC spokeswoman Ellen Bona says while the Bully Broads programme is designed specifically for female executives, 85% of the firm's clients are men.

"Ninety percent of the women who are sent to us are sent because they are exhibiting behaviour [that] is intimidating and aggressive and scaring people," she says.

"We are not teaching these women to be less aggressive, we aren't asking them to change their message, [just the way their message is communicated]," Ms Bona told BBC News Online.

Promotion opportunities

If female executives are successful in adopting programme principals, she says, "Then in fact they can rise up the corporate ladder and break the glass ceiling and get into those executive vice-president and CEO positions".

GLC also points out that graduates of programmes have an 85% chance of getting promoted within a year of completing the three months of training.

See also:

08 Mar 01 | Business
Women on course for success
01 Mar 01 | Business
Europe's top women
10 Apr 01 | Business
Laddism and the City
08 Jul 00 | UK
30-year wait for equal pay
21 Feb 00 | UK
Women's workplace wars
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