Do you ever feel powerless in a business meeting in a room full of men? You walk in with confidence, but then are shut down by opposing comments or interruptions. You want to scream with frustration! I’ve felt that way, too.
Yet women hold more power than they themselves and their male coworkers will admit. Businessmen are quietly in awe of the gifts their female colleagues possess, although don’t expect them to share their admiration with you.
Many women are imbued with the powers of relationships, mindfulness, and inspiring trust. While we don’t think these are a big deal because they come as second nature, they’re foreign to most of our male coworkers. If we could bottle them up and sell them to men, they’d be standing in line. They can’t do interpersonal relationships like we can.
Sometimes, what we’re good at is staring us in the face. For example, I personally have found myself downplaying my ability to build trust and establish relationships. I’ve even gone on the defense when these traits are brought up. Why is that?
While this is just one example, it underscores a tendency I’ve noticed among fellow female friends and colleagues to downplay their natural talents. I’ve realized this is often done because women wish to be recognized for the same strengths that bring our male counterparts recognition, such as bringing in new business or having the idea that everyone runs with.
In the past, this overcorrection has made me lose sight of my overall goals during important meetings or while negotiating a business deal. My lesson from this, my take-away, is to look at the big picture and try to validate what women and men can accomplish together.
We can move the needle toward improved acceptance of what women can add as business associates. Follow these five tips to empower yourself in the workplace:
- Adopt the ABCs of success. Cultivate the traits of a relentlessly positive Attitude, unfaltering professional Behavior and unceasingly sound Confidence and you’ll build a foundation of success. Attitude is one of the few aspects of life over which you have total control. Controlling it will work in your favor in countless ways, both personally and professionally.
- Learn their rules. If we want businessmen to understand us, it greatly benefits us to understand them. Successful men aren’t incented to change or fix a system that’s served them well. Why would they? Asking them to change is like walking into a football locker room and proposing new rules. The male-oriented practices and expectations in the workplace — like having a thick skin, checking their personal lives at the door, playing their cards close to their vest, and many others — won’t give way to women’s more emotive behaviors. Both genders need to move toward a middle ground.
- Refrain from speaking impulsively. Practice tenir sa langue, which means “hold your tongue.” Try mentally counting to seven before speaking so that you give yourself time to consider the perspective of the person you’re speaking with and whether the situation is potentially sensitive. Think how your words will be received. Men aren’t as comfortable with disclosure as women.
- Get used to taking risks. Men are more programmed for risk-taking then women. Make a point of doing one uncomfortable thing a day, like speaking with someone who intimidates you, reaching out to someone you feel is beyond your reach, or learning a new skill. A little discomfort is freeing. A little risk is exciting. It encourages you to constantly move toward bigger and better things.
- Learn to manage stress. A career woman’s life is like holding a glass that has six holes in it, and each hole represents an important area of her life — health, work, hobbies, spouse, kids, and friends. Fill the glass with water and our five fingers can’t cover all six holes. Businessmen continue to assume that women will find ways to shoulder these extra responsibilities, and if they don’t, it’s their problem. This goes unspoken. It’s not fair. It’s a double standard. But it’s reality. Make a concerted effort to manage work-home stress through exercise, meditation, spirituality and healthy living. It will help you stay centered and able to react with thought and intention rather than emotion.
Let’s take ownership of our gifts and start standing in our strengths. As we convey our assuredness and professionalism, we can make strides toward true workplace equality.
Guest Contribution By:
Marja Norris is the CEO and founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, she has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world and is passionate about coaching women on how to be taken seriously, be heard, and get what they want at work. Her latest book, The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World, provides women with the tools to awaken their dreams and reach their highest goals. Visit marjanorris.com.