As a woman in the corporate world, you may feel like your gender places you squarely in a box that it’s nearly impossible to escape. Oftentimes, women in management positions are stereotyped as shrill, overbearing or even neurotic. Sometimes the words used to describe us are stronger than I care to say here. But rather than be passive and let these generalizations simply happen, we should work to overcome them and be more than someone else’s definition of a working woman.
Rule #1: Don’t deny your femininity
Women and men are mentally and emotionally different. Personally, I’m proud to be a smart, independent woman who embraces everything about my womanhood. Why should we expend energy trying to act and think like men when it doesn’t come naturally at all. Many times, when women try to adopt characteristics that are traditionally thought of as being male (ex: being assertive), they are turned into negative stereotypes (ex: being overbearing). Don’t deny your instincts as a woman in management. You got here because of your talent and management skills as a woman. Keep it that way.
Rule #2: Confront stereotyping head on
When you see stereotyping happening in your office, whether directed at you or someone else, be sure to address it immediately. You may get some push back initially, but if you remain consistent and fair, attitudes will eventually change.
Rule #3: Challenge personality generalizations one-on-one
There is no better way to create negativity than to publicly single out offenders. When you see someone using generalizations, talk to them in private. They will be less defensive and more likely to hear the message you are trying to convey: it’s not OK to lump one gender all together.
Rule #4: Keep some levity
Don’t be the woman in the office who refuses to allow so much as a joke that contains stereotypes. When you push things to a level where people feel uncomfortable, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. When you see that generalizations are being made in good fun and aren’t hurting anyone, it’s alright to have a good laugh with coworkers.
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