In an attempt to blend into the male-oriented business world, women often second guess themselves and walk on eggshells to avoid falling into some of the following categories …
- The Bitch: Some people just straight up can not handle a woman who's direct and knows what needs to be done and says so. Rather than accept her strength, they decide she must be a bitch.
- The Wimp: Women who do not keep their emotions in such light as to be labeled cold-hearted run the risk of being labeled too emotional. Life is indispensable when we make little boxes like this and try to stuff people in them.
- The Cold Fish: We go to the opposite end of the spectrum when we deny that emotions play a big role in our lives. That's true for both men and women, but stereotypes say women are driven by emotion while men use their heads. To combat this idea, a woman in a leadership position may keep a firm rein on her emotions, only to be labeled cold-hearted by the people working with her.
- The Hard Ass: Have you ever been disciplined by a male boss? Did you automatically think he was being a hard ass because he's a guy? Probably not.
- The Pushover: Has a male boss ever given you a little extra slack? Was he going easy on you because he was a guy or because the decision made sense given the specific circumstances?
- The Quota-Filler: This assumption is particularly hurtful. It's based on the idea that women can not compete on their own merits in the world of business. Because of that some people think women who have a position of authority must have been given that position for PR reasons or even worse that they compromised something to get there.
- The Nervous Nelly: The traditional role of the woman has been to raise the kids and run the household. Because many women do tend to nurture before they compete, people think that woman has a stronger attachment to security than men. They absorb women are unwilling to take the kinds of risks needed to grow a successful business. (This is not actually true, by the way. Research shows that in the current climate women are more willing than men to take risks that could yield a bigger reward.)
People do not tend to view a male professional's decisions through the lens of him being a male, but they will micro-analyze every decision a woman makes looking to see how her femininity affected the decision. It can make for an impossible situation if you do not know how to navigate the stereotypes being tossed in your direction.
A Badass Business Woman knows how to confront labels and strongly communicate her ideas so even her harshest critics pay attention. She finds a balance between being aggressive and being passive. She's direct and assertive without being intimidating or overpowering.
When you suspect you're being stereotyped in the business place, the first thing to do is keep your sense of humor. You're a fair more effective communicator when you're amused than when you're angry.
The next thing to do is to address whatever unfounded concern is coming at you by paraphrasing what you hear … something to the effect of, "So you're concerned about my decision to move up the date for the marketing campaign because you think the reasons are emotional? " Let the person respond and then calmly and directly explain your real reasoning. Remember, you will not destroy a stereotype in a single conversation, but over time, most people will get over their preconceptions.
If the stereotypes are flung your way are those people mutter under their breath, just hit them with a calm, direct "Excuse me? I did not quite catch what you said there." You'll either force them to repeat themselves and look like a fool or you'll convince them to keep their little asides to themselves.
Finally, it's not your responsibility to end other people's stereotypes. It's your responsibility to do your job and do it well. Address stereotypes when they interfere. Otherwise ignore them and let small, petty people be small and petty. In the end, most of your colleges will prefer your company to their heads.