March 3, 2024

Despite the Expectation for Assertiveness in Leaders, Women in Leadership roles may face Challenges for embodying these Traits.

A week ago, I had a conversation with a friend about how similar leadership styles can be perceived differently. We both shared a common experience, prompting us to reflect on various leadership styles. As you may know, there is often a distinct perception difference between an assertive man and an assertive woman in leadership.

Fortunately, numerous discussions and writings on this topic have surfaced in recent years, which I find beneficial as it increases awareness about potential biases.

After talking with my friend, I decided to look up some stories online. I found out that many women at work face a common problem – figuring out how to be assertive without being too outspoken or too reserved. This got me thinking if enough people know about this issue and if things are getting better for women in their careers.

As I look back on my experiences, there are moments after meetings, especially when I’m advocating for what I believe is the best direction, especially in predominantly male audiences, where I question myself. Did I come off as too aggressive? Was I too outspoken? People who know me might be surprised because I’m usually the one who speaks up and challenges things in meetings when I think it’s important.

However, achieving this confidence took years of overcoming limiting thoughts, ensuring they don’t hold back my personal development, and allowing me to have the courage to speak out. Additionally, finding inspiration in articles and books about other women’s experiences, where they spoke up about similar challenges, has been crucial. Thankfully, their courage has started to raise awareness, helping women like me navigate these situations more confidently.

And yet, despite years of working on this, I sometimes still have these thoughts. I pondered why this is the case, and I believe it’s because women often get labeled as too loud or too aggressive. Even when we act the same as men, we are often judged differently.

So, if people have called you bossy, too aggressive, or too loud, don’t stress about it. Look at it differently – maybe you have a natural talent for taking charge.

And, definitely, you’re not alone in this group. In fact, if you examine the top 5 women who climbed the ladder and achieved their goals, I can almost guarantee that most of them have also been labeled with these names.

I understand that receiving such feedback can be discouraging and may lead to doubts about your own abilities. Therefore, it’s important to understand why these situations often occur.

These issues often arise from deep-rooted expectations and biases in our society regarding how men and women should behave. Studies and articles about gender dynamics at work can help you understand how cultural stereotypes shape the way people see things.

Studies tell us that old-fashioned beliefs connect qualities such as being assertive, confident, and a leader with masculinity. So, when women display these traits, some people might think they’re too aggressive, breaking society’s expectations. There are certain social norms about how women should behave, and what’s considered acceptable or expected from them.

Traditionally, the image of a leader has been associated with a man who has specific characteristics like being aggressive, assertive, achievement-oriented, and competitive. On the other hand, stereotypes about women often revolve around being more nurturing, supportive, and maybe collaborative.

Understanding and challenging these stereotypes is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace. Most importantly, it can help you understand why you are seeing double standards and why if man behaves the same why as you do it might be okay but for you is not okay.

Now, what can you do about it? Personally, gaining awareness of these biases and understanding why they exist has been helpful for me. Knowing that many women are facing similar challenges provides a sense of solidarity!

This understanding can certainly ease the impact of feedback suggesting you are too aggressive. Importantly, it helps you not to take such feedback too personally, recognizing that it often reflects societal biases rather than your actual abilities or leadership style.

If you receive this kind of feedback, what can you do?

  • Firstly, being aware of the factors I described and understanding why these labels come up can be helpful.
  • Secondly, if this feedback comes from someone critical in the company, consider it as an opportunity to open a dialogue and seek clarity.

Awareness of the challenges women face in the workplace is a crucial first step. Understanding that gender biases exist, and acknowledging their impact, empowers individuals to navigate such situations more effectively. When feedback arises, especially from influential figures within the organization, approaching it as a chance for constructive conversation can lead to positive outcomes.

In conclusion, by staying aware, seeking understanding, and fostering open discussions, individuals can contribute to breaking down stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive work environment.

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