Cathie Black's non-stop smiling seems to clash with the gravitas of the responsibility of heading the New York City school system. Also, for women of a certain age smiling too much can scream "insecurity."
In this tough economy, employers don't want women employees lacking in confidence. American women who want to earn decent money might get serious about smiling less.
Think how U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, television reporter Diane Sawyer, and Internet entrepreneur Laurel Toby tend not to flash the pearlies. A half smile, then they get down to business. It's been conjected that former head of the Red Cross Elizabeth Dole stumbled in politics because she clung to being a lady, along with the ongoing gracious smile.
This concern about the downside of smiling isn't new. Way back in 1985, Time brought up the subject. For example, the article pointed out how in many cultures, including American, smiling is a sign of surrender, not strength -- nevermind power.
So, how do you -- the female who needs to earn a living and is ambitious enough to change to get ahead -- manage the smile issue? Here are some ideas:
1. Enter a situation with a small smile.
This is still a patriarchal culture and it's expected that women will know their place by smiling when entering a room, a meeting, a new situation. But then allow that smile to slide into an attentive facial expression which communicates high engagement in what's going on.
2. Leverage smiling to gain cooperation, allies, and influence.
Never underestimate the power of femininity. When someone needs reassurance, such as at a meeting, a warm smile goes a long way.
3. Acknowledge a temporary lack of power by a smile of surrender.
When you need help or forgiveness, a smile signaling surrender is the right gesture. As you regain your position, smile less.