My inspiration for this Post came from a book I read about five years Back entitled, Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office 101, Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers authored by Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D.. The book is easy to read and contains some sage advice for your career-minded woman. My approach to the subject however, will be slightly different from that of the writer.
Whether we’re mothers or not, as girls, the delicate balance still remains in regards to the way we are perceived in the workplace or in business. Either we’re too nice and therefore may be seen as weak, or we’re too outspoken and therefore be perceived as being overly aggressive. Some women that are viewed as overly aggressive might even be “labeled” with terms quite inappropriate for print or online media.
My alpha female readers out there, you know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of value in understanding how we’re perceived as working professionals. I can speak from experience that it is far better to be seen as “outspoken” as opposed to overly nice or weak. For people who know mepersonally, I believe myself to be the utmost professional so when I say outspoken, I’m not talking in terms of being a bull in a china shop.
Keep in mind
I’m talking in terms of our ability to be assertive, firm, competent, decisive, especially when it comes to making hard decisions, and more importantly to understand what we’re talking about! A woman can get rid of credibility pretty quickly if she’s viewed as outspoken but lacks substance. The amount of assurance that we exemplify should come from a place of mastery or experience in our field of work or business.
We have to be in the level of assurance where we’re unafraid to put forward our thoughts, challenge the status quo, meanwhile never losing sight of our uniqueness as girls. We’re not men so why try to behave like men on the job. An article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review, entitled Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers1, addresses the subject of women, leadership and the special challenges women are currently facing in the corporate world.
Women continue to be seen as caregivers but when given opportunities to progress, many assimilate by acting similarly to men, especially in male dominated areas. This assimilation again contributes to a perception of being overly aggressive.
Take into account
On the other hand, women who use a less “male” approach, can be perceived as too indecisive or psychological. Therefore, women need to strike a perfect balance so as to be over looked or negatively perceived at work. Ironically, men are now having to learn and practice more “emotionally intelligent” behaviors as competitive styles of leadership are proven to be counter productive and not as effective. Working moms face a particularly tough challenge as we might forever be under scrutiny by an employer who might nevertheless be stuck in the past when women did not have the right to vote.
For innovative employers, those who evaluate performance based on specific behaviors evidenced by outstanding effects, this can be a non-issue. Sadly, however, we see more companies and oftentimes the individual to whom we report, using subjectivity rather than objectivity when assessing our level of proficiency. As working mothers we aren’t searching for special treatment but truth be told there might be an undertone that we are.
What is happening?
Could we be sending signals that we do expect special treatment? Here are two prime examples , however insignificant they might be, may affect the way we’re perceived on the job. The first has to do with our motherly responsibilities, which often coincide with our professional career, like faculty drop-offs and pick-ups. Now, I’m a self-employed mother with the flexibility, but not necessarily, to work my schedule around these phases.
I truly delight in those car rides with my daughter. But there was a time when I wasn’t “calling my own shots” and my feelings about college pick-ups were comparable to choosing between getting an arm amputated or going on a trip to Paris. What will my employer believe? Will the time I take, even if allowed, be held against me if a promotion become accessible? If you have never had these ideas then you have to be working for one of these 21st century companies.
Feeling guilty about needing to keep some work life balance shouldn’t occur yet it does. Not so much time off, but feeling you are missing out on advancing your career as a outcome. This may be perceived in a negative manner. If you know your value, and your employer has given you no sign they don’t value your participation, then shake it off. The second example has to do with pregnancy.
There are laws to protect women that are pregnant because there should be, however pregnancy isn’t an illness. I’m not being insensitive here. I have two kids and have actually left work in the past because of an employer who didn’t respect the precious little maternity leave we get, by requesting me to leave my three months old infant at home to arrange a business conference. I stepped there on the spot. Having said this, barring any complications, we’re fully capable of doing our tasks efficiently.
The potential adverse effects we might not be considering when working while pregnant is really expecting special treatment. Truth be told, you might be working for a company where competence isn’t valued, so in the event that you don’t have to be out because of morning sickness, or it is still possible to perform your work as long as your safety and that of your unborn child isn’t at risk, then work and operate with the identical degree of proficiency as you would if you weren’t pregnant. Yes, society has a subtle means of making working moms feel guilty for wanting to progress their careers while maintaining healthy family relationships, but girls need not succumb to what society believes. In actuality, we should not permit anybody to impact how we feel. We are women of power.