Women have had to deal with the double-bind or “backlash effect” in business for decades and it has frequently been the topic of many discussions about how women can overcome this prejudice to advance their careers.

In a nutshell, this double-bind is:

To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype.

Now, there is a new study from Stanford Graduate School of Business that shows:

In the business world, women who are aggressive, assertive, and confident but who can turn these traits on and off, depending on the social circumstances, get more promotions than either men or other women.

The research suggests that for women to be successful they must simultaneously present themselves as self–confident and dominant while tempering these qualities with displays of communal characteristics.

Women who had more masculine traits (defined as aggressive, assertive, and confident) AND who could temper their behavior (self-monitor their behavior) depending on social circumstances, were actually more successful than either men or other women.

The key is to learn how to self-monitor your behavior. It is still vitally important to assert yourself confidently in the business environment. If you want to advance your career, you need to establish visibility and credibility for yourself. People associate competence with confidence so the more confident you are, the more others will perceive you as competent.

“There is no evidence that ‘acting like a lady’ does anything except make women more well liked,” O’Neill said. “Women with ultra–feminine traits, in fact, are still seen as less competent in traditional managerial settings.”

That being said, it is also important to know when to listen, acknowledge others, and work and empower your team. When your behavior comes across as too self-serving, you will get that “backlash effect”.

“The interesting thing here is that being able to regulate one’=’s masculine behavior does not simply put women on par with men, it gives them even more of an advantage,” notes O’Neill. “This shows that for women who do want success at the managerial level, the paths are there.”

This is certainly encouraging news. Yet I find that learning to assert oneself appropriately in the work place, still remains an issue for many women.

What are your thoughts about the double-bind?