Class in the Crossfire
Inspired by this week’s Moms Making Six Figures Podcast featuring Monique Lashbrook who believes in the power of women to hold their own in male dominated fields without losing their cool, their composure, or their class. When you confront your self-doubt with the knowledge that you were chosen for the position you’ve attained regardless of your counterparts’ opinions, you can apply yourself, and prove yourself to the entire office & the toughest critic: you.
As women many of us can recall a moment in our personal or professional history where we were made blatantly aware of the stereotypes of our gender and likely received that admonition by acting in kind—just as our well-intended “counselor” anticipated. For me, this self-fulfilling prophecy came uncomfortably into focus in my Driver’s Education course—my instructor, a middle aged male, asserted that the boys in the class would make much better drivers because many of them already operated a variety of steerable vehicles for fun, or for work. And, well, girls didn’t, so they were more prone to struggling with even ‘the basics’ like driving within the lines of the lane. This is, of course, exactly what happened. Despite having grown up driving and maneuvering four wheelers, golf carts, and boats—my own knowledge was stripped the second his sentiment was uttered. I lost all confidence in my experience and I navigated the vehicle as tightly to each side of the lane and back to other like a game of Red Rover throughout my drive. To make matters worse, I cried, pulled the car over and handed over my drive time to one of the male students. I had fulfilled the instructor’s expectations, eh hem—stereotypes, to a T and nearly dropped the course. It’s time that we recognize that women bring a unique set of skills and perspective to the workplace—particularly to those dominated by men—so long as they maintain their class in the crossfire.
But First, Confidence
In order to keep your composure and demonstrate the class you possess, it is essential that you build and establish your confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job. If there’s no self-doubt for the boys club to manipulate, it’s a lot easier to hold you ground with grace.
Even if you struggle with imposter syndrome (like the majority of the US population), the truth is that you can still perform well despite these thoughts. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Most women who fall prey to the “imposter syndrome” are actually quite successful at work despite their self-perceived fraudulence.” Reminding yourself of that, and the fact that you were chosen and hired for the position you’re in regardless of male colleagues trying to muscle your sense of self into a corner, will help you to remain calm when met with challenging situations (or perhaps more likely, challenging male counterparts).
Positivity That Is Far From Toxic
We’ve talked about it countless times, and so have our guests, because it works. Positivity isn’t just a passing fad or trend, and we aren’t suggesting you adopt it in a toxic form that does more harm than good. When we focus on the positive in our work environment, it helps to put our challenges into perspective. We gain confidence in our ability to maintain decorum, each time we corral our emotions and control our thought patterns. Rather than giving into the negative stressors that inundate our lives, each thought we take captive and redirect, strengthens our resolve and our reputation.
The American Institute of Stress notes that, “most people agree that part of executive presence is a cool, calm, confident demeanor. While others are racing and reacting throughout the day, highly successful executives seem to walk calmly, purposefully and remain focused on their predefined objectives. Many studies have shown the positive correlation between emotional intelligence and regulation and effectiveness.”
Find role models, whether it’s a mentor or famous women you admire to model your professional aspirations after. If you’re the only woman in the room, it can be challenging to grow and thrive; make connections and build your network of support. Choose women who are respected and revered in their field, women who have mastered the art of using their unique attributes without falling victim to the negative narrative of the emotionally fueled female.
While you’re making choices about building your community, be sure to seek out men who can be allies through mentorship and advice. Forbes advises women to look for the following to know which male counterparts are worth aligning yourself with—if they’re an ally for women they should:
- Listen and amplify your opinions and thoughts during meetings.
- Speak up when they see gender bias.
- Go out of their way to praise your work in front of their colleagues.
- Advocate for you.
Assert Yourself Without Attaching Emotion
Men don’t wait for opportunities to come along, they make opportunities happen by vocalizing what they want –even if they aren’t sure they’re capable of fulfilling the expectations of whatever role or project they’re seeking. Most bosses are stretched too thin to consider the intricacies of project allocation, and so they default, as most of us do, to the last person (or the most persistent) to raise an interest. The Muse suggests, “scheduling formal time at least once and month [to] let your boss know what you’d like to work on,” or, “grabbing your boss in the hall during your morning coffee break to bring up the projects that excite you.”
As Monique pointed out in our interview this week, working harder to prove your intellect and skill set, and to solidify your seat at the table isn’t necessarily a downside to being a female in a male dominated industry. Rather, this hard work will only further improve yourself skill and garner the hard earned respect from your male counterparts. Each time you present yourself as capable, confident, and calm, you can assert yourself with class rather than giving into emotions and furthering the stereotypes of women in the workplace. If I could go back in time and offer my former self some advice, it would be to take a deep breath, to buckle up, and to bring the best of myself to any situation.
You can play to your feminine strengths without succumbing to stereotypes as a woman in male dominated field. And, doing so while remaining cool, calm and collected, will only further solidify the need for your unique perspective in the boardroom.