So..imagine this... You are sitting in a meeting and a man expresses his opinion that is in disagreement with the majority of the room. He has a valid point and doesn't back down about his beliefs. The confidence and power displayed is valued and admired. How about if a woman was to say the same thing?
I have been working at my company for almost ten years. Over the course of those ten years, I have come from a timid, young (21 year old) girl to now - where I would describe myself as a confident woman. It took a lot of time, experience, and self-reflecting, but I'm there. I am confident enough to lead teams, manage people, and say what I think in a room full of executives (not to mention say what I think to thousands of readers). If they didn't want to hear my opinion, I would not have been invited to the meeting, right? That's what I tell myself, anyway. I have been around long enough that I have opinions and I can make decisions with confidence. It's been ten years, but I am so happy and proud that I am where I am.
I am very lucky to know many powerful women within the workplace. Over the last few years, I have taken note of the tough spot that women sometimes find themselves in when in a position of power. The constant worry..."Do I come off as bitchy?" Somehow, I doubt that men worry about this... Power. For some reason, I think it is perceived differently when displayed by a man versus a woman.
Many women in the workplace are able to keep a tough facade during meetings, only to break down in weakness after the fact. Over-analyzing every word said and how it may or may not be perceived. I find it hard to believe, once again, that men sit at home or in their closed office worrying and over-analyzing. Several of my friends in high positions have these insecurities. Is it indicative of a position of power? Or, it is just indicative of a women in a powerful position? Why do we let self-doubt take over? Women do this in so many areas of our lives. Even mom-guilt is a form of self-doubt. Sometimes, mom-guilt is rooted with validity (Here is a great post from a friend of mine with great thoughts on this). Other times, it is just a way we torture ourselves with self-doubt...many times even about things that are out of our control.
I think we, as women, need to just let it go. We have been placed in the positions that we are in because we are good at our jobs (from executives to the mommies of tiny tikes). Let's remind ourselves of that. Let's acknowledge ourselves internally when we do a good job. Practice in little ways...like, "Man, I made a good dinner tonight." It will help us gain the confidence we need. Let's not apologize for things that are not our fault. It is such a common thing women do - we are accommodators, pleasers, and apologizers. I have made a point over the last few years to bite my tongue when I want to apologize at work (unless it is my fault, of course). Last, but certainly not least, let's support each other. Women helping other women. What a wonderful support system that we have at our fingertips. I'm saddened to say that many times it doesn't work out that way. I see women tear each other apart all the time. I'm so glad I have avoided these situations and I have managed to surround myself with a great support system of powerful women. Find your own team. Support is a wonderful thing (in the workplace and at home). I love knowing that we have each other's backs.
Today, a co-worker (who had been traveling with an site engineer I used to work with often), told me that the engineer thought I was intimidating. Me? Intimidating? I am still trying to figure this out. Especially because the majority of my exposure to this person was five years ago. Five Years Ago... I was still trying to find my way between that timid girl to a confident woman. Questioning myself everyday. Questioning, how I was put into a position to manage the largest accounts and millions and millions of dollars. Over-analyzing every encounter. How could I have been intimidating back then? Is it just because I was a female doing a "man's job"? Is it maybe even a compliment that at 25 years old I was able to intimidate anyone? I still haven't digested this one fully...but I've decided I'm not going to over-analyze it. I'm going to go to work on Monday and do what I do. I'm going to do what I've taught myself to do. Be confident. Be decisive. And...I won't apologize that I intimidated anyone.