A few weeks ago I spoke at a Women’s Leadership Conference where much of the conversation revolved around a discussion of what it takes for a woman to get ahead or become a leader in her chosen profession. At one point during the discussion a young woman stood up and proudly announced that she “never”, emphasizing the word “never” refers to herself as a woman at work. She also stated that she avoids topics of conversation that are normally referred to as “girl talk” or discuss topics that men normally express little if no interest in, such as shopping, clothes, etc. When I asked this woman why she was trying so hard to appear not to be a woman at work she replied: “I’m the only woman on my team and I’m afraid I won’t be taken seriously – especially if I talk about my family or my children.” Although I can understand the concern expressed in this statement, I was struck by the fact that the woman who was saying this was eight months pregnant! When I asked this woman if she didn’t think the men on her team noticed her pregnancy, she stated: “Yes, of course they do but I just try my best to ignore it when they look at my stomach.”
Let’s flip this discussion over for a moment. Do you think a man would ever try to not act like a man – especially in the workplace? This very thought strikes me as absurd as I write these words. Therefore, I find it quite interesting that some highly educated women feel the need to hide – or at the very least diminish their womanhood in the workplace. I would even go so far as to suggest that trying to do this is akin to searching for the Holy Grail. This inauthenticity requires a tremendous amount of wasted energy and effort that would be much better spent working on a million other professional goals and objectives.
Neuroscience validates the functional differences between the male and female brain and studies show how integrating both male and female qualities in the workplace is optimum for not only profit but for a healthy work environment. We are all only kidding ourselves not to acknowledge the difference between men and women – at work and anywhere else. Women would do well to openly embrace their womanhood and view it as an asset, not a liability. In other words – be authentically female.
Long gone are the days of women wearing business pant suits; now we must shed our own negative mindset, which includes being inauthentic in the workplace. Be real!
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