Are Stereotypes Hurting You?
There are lots of stereotypes that hurt women, but ignoring us as we put forward ideas and justifying those actions by saying that we talk too much tops the list.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a conference of Canadian Women Engineers. When women who work in male-dominated professions get together, the topic of making comments in meetings inevitably comes up. Everyone reports being passed over while the same comment made by a man a few minutes later is met with great nods of approval.
I addressed this in a past newsletter but one of the other conference speakers, Lydia Surasky Matte, had a particularly intriguing idea. Under such circumstances she would say, “Would a man please say the following…” It humorously made her point to all involved.
Stereotyping women as being overly talkative gives people an unfair excuse to dismiss them. However, research doesn’t support the allegation. In fact, one study showed that people supported men, but looked away from women making the same suggestions and using the same words. Women continue to face an uphill battle to be “seen and heard” around the decision-making table.
I’ve thought about this problem a lot but the solution always seems to come back to the same three things: women need to establish a mentor, a network and support other women.
We can test our ideas on mentors and individuals in our networks informally and then call upon them for support in meetings. And, we need to keep recounting the stories of the contributions made by women. There will be lots who put us down by attaching negative stereotypes – our job is to keep the recognition of our positive attributes alive. Can you use your voice to contribute to this?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After a highly successful career in business, including 26 years with PotashCorp where she was Senior Vice-President, Betty-Ann retired in 2007, the same year that she was named to Canada‘s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame™. She now works as a speaker, author and mentor and is committed to using her personal and professional experiences to inspire and empower other women. A firm believer in the value women bring to organizations, Betty-Ann explores changing perceptions of male and female roles including candid observations about what she calls "Good Gender Physics” on her blog at www.stillettochick.com. She helps both men and women understand the primary energy of their gender but also accept and appreciate the strengths of their opposite.