Are you a polite, hardworking, accommodating worker? Well, I’ve just learned that being a “good girl” can be a bad thing when it comes to your career and personal finances.

At a recent Breakfast Meeting of the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) I heard a talk by Dr. Lois Frankel, the author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers…”, which brought up some good points.

One of the things Frankel said was that women should understand and play by the rules.  She asserted that hard work doesn’t get you ahead – it enables you to keep your job.  Women have to start thinking strategically and start promoting themselves as team players.

Another point made was that women have to learn to “manage up.”  People complain that the reason someone is getting ahead is that the boss likes them, and it’s true.  You don’t have to flatter your boss or agree with everything they say, but you do want to let them know that you’re committed to his/her success.  Then your boss will be committed to yours.

Another thing we women miss is building 360 degree relationships.  Spend a part of your time at work nurturing sincere relationships at ALL levels.  No one gets ahead by being tethered to their desk all day.  Instead spend 15 minutes a day in casual conversation with co-workers and build connections.

Strange as it seems, since women feel that they’re liberated from the former stereotypes, you must pay attention to the “dress for success” mantra.  A full 50% of your credibility is based on how you look, and how you dress.  Another 40% is based on how you sound, so it’s not being phony or false to put your best foot forward – it’s strategic.

Now for all you women I hear groaning after that last point, I sympathize with you.  As an entrepreneur, one

of my favorite perks is not having to don pantyhose everyday – but that doesn’t mean you can run around in pj’s or sweats either.  You can put forth a very presentable, business-like, credible, impression with a neat pant suit – even with low-heel shoes.  Add a well maintained haircut and style, and even with minimal makeup and smart jewelry you can look as smart as any office executive.

There’s also something of note for my male readers, if you’ve kept with me this far into the column.  Women should pay attention, too, to the shocking statistics I’m about to reveal.  Let’s not fall asleep at the switch, ladies!

A figure everyone should watch is:

Women fill less than 15% of Congressional seats.  Among our 100 senators, only 14 are women and we hold only 15% of the seats in the House of Representatives.  The result is, we have almost no say in Washington in the thousands of decisions that control our businesses, families, and lives.  That means that 85% of the people shaping our lives are men.

At a time when women account for more than half of the nation’s population, why don’t we have greater representation in Congress?  Surely women haven’t knowingly ceded our important decisions to men.  I think this stunning inequity exists because people don’t know about it.

Why do we need more women in office?  Because women politicians have a track record of introducing and pushing issues of interest to women and families.  An example of this, in 1990, women in Congress realized that the National Institute of Health was conducting heart disease research only on men.  So Congressional women called for an investigation of gender bias in medical research and catalyzed the Women’s Health Initiative to study women’s heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis.  We now know heart disease is markedly different in women, and with this one effort they saved many of our own lives and those of loved ones.

Granted there are many reasons why women don’t run for office: insufficient funding, family responsibilities, and an incumbency system that favors people in office (usually men).  But there’s one reason we can change! Women, unlike men, wait to be asked to run.  Ladies, it’s time to stop waiting!  Start running!

More women in Congress could help us close the wage gap that still exists, and don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t.  Recent research by NAFE shows that men annually earn, on average, $10,000-plus more than women in exactly the same jobs.  If you can’t run yourself, then offer to work on the campaign of a woman running in your district and help her win.

Women must not remain the silent majority!!!! Let’s make this year a better year for women. 

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