The “no” woman is the opposite of a “yes” man. She’s usually not an administrative assistant or junior employee — most often, she is part of the leadership team in the company or on a particular project. And whether it’s part of her official job description or not, she’s the person who’s there to say no. She provides a counterbalance to the creative visionary and a reality check after a brainstorming session. She finds herself continually speaking up to temper her colleagues’ expectations or modify their strategies, either because it’s part of her job to control budgets and keep everyone within the bounds of the law, or because she is simply more rational than the freewheelin’ “ideas men” she works with.

You see her in pop culture. In the opening monologue of the newly rebooted X-Files, Agent Fox Mulder describes how he came to work with Agent Dana Scully: “In 1993, the FBI sought to impugn my work, bringing in a scientist and medical doctor to debunk it.” Scully, whose entire character is based on skepticism, is the consummate “no” woman.

Ann Friedman on no women.