These Satirical Cartoons Show the Reality of Being a Woman at Work

August 7th 2016

If you're a working woman, you've probably experienced the frustration of trying not to come off as "too threatening" (read: bitchy), whether it's voicing disagreement in a meeting or drafting an email. How many of us have sent chirpy emails reading, "Just checking in on this!"?

If you're not a working woman, don't worry: Writer/comedian Sarah Cooper breaks it down for you in a series of brilliant comics, "Nine Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women." We spoke to Cooper about what inspired her illustrations, but, first, here are

Nine Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women










Q&A with Sarah Cooper

ATTN: What inspired you to come up with "Nine Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women"?

Sarah Cooper: I was brainstorming for my next post and came across this headline I'd written down from The Onion: "Woman Quickly Cycles Through Non-Threatening Voice Inflections Before Expressing Concern," which I thought was hilarious and subtly touched on how, in the corporate world, I often felt like I needed to change how I said something in order to not be perceived as too aggressive or pushy (even though the same actions from a man might not be perceived that way).

I shared the idea with a small focus group of friends and family, and, although they liked it, it also made some of them feel sad [or] angry. So I went through several revisions before the post was just serious enough to feel honest and yet also just silly enough for people to know it's a joke (although some people are still taking it very seriously). For the record: This is not serious advice!

ATTN: Your piece though reminded me of the Gmail plugin, "Just Not Sorry." Have you heard of it? It warns you when you use weak words like "just" and "sorry" in an email. Do you think women say "just" and "sorry" too much?

Sarah Cooper: Yes! Just the other day I overheard a woman on a meeting ask a question by prefacing it with, "I'm sorry for my ignorance here, ... " which made me cringe! I make it a point to avoid saying "I'm sorry" unless I'm actually apologizing for something. Many times I say "I'm sorry" in order to soften [or] minimize myself, but instead it ends up making me look like I made a mistake even when I didn't. I try to edit "sorry" and "just" out when I can, but it's a hard habit to break.

ATTN: What's your best leadership advice for women who work in a predominately male office?

Sarah Cooper: Be OK with people not liking you. When you want people to like you, you end up policing how you talk to a point where you are diminishing yourself. Likability is important, but for most male leaders, it's not the most important thing (and, in fact, some male leaders enjoy not being liked). Once you get rid of wanting to be liked, you can focus on getting the job done and, ultimately, I think, gain more respect that way.

Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian, and creator of TheCooperReview.com. Her first book, "100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings," comes out Oct. 4. Sign up for her free newsletter to get updates.

Share your opinion

Do you relate to these illustrations?

No 13%Yes 87%