Being A Woman In The Workplace Today

Do you worry that you have to give up your femininity in order to fit into the technical workplace and be respected? Should you be one of the guys? If you do, will you get or lose respect?  OR should you be the lady of the group, all feminine and motherly?  My opinion is, you can be both feminine and assertive in your role without losing yourself.

Many articles have been written about the dilemma of women in the workplace. Most conclude that women who are too aggressive and masculine might be successful to a certain degree, but ultimately be looked down on for being too masculine.  These articles contend that women who are too aggressive and assertive might be given the “B” word label.  On the flip side, they have also written about women who choose to be the mommy type, all feminine and motherly, remembering everyone’s birthday and bringing cookies to the workplace.  Neither of these types are given high ratings as they both conjure up negative stereotypes that don’t fit well in a technical workplace environment. You can avoid both types by just being yourself and using a common sense approach in the workplace.

Everyone, not just women should be assertive in the workplace.  That does not equate to being aggressive.  I am not sure if there is ever a time when aggression is needed in the workplace.  Assertiveness is knowing what you want, knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, or finding how how.  Be aggressive with yourself in going after your goal.  Know where you are, know how you rank, and how you are viewed in the company.  Have some specific goals, and reach for them with aggression. You don’t need to exhibit aggression towards others, just towards your goals.  Be careful not to get to caught up in the media frenzy of the female being paid less, viewed less favorably when we have kids and promoted less frequently.  These are all  issues that you need to be aware of, but don’t go into the workplace fighting an enemy that is preconceived and could possibly be non-existent for you. Take your time, understand your environment and players, and decide how to behave and build alliances accordingly.  If over time, you need to tackle a personnel issue around being female, do so with continued grace and try to maintain a positive attitude.

How about acting like one of the guys.  How do the guys act?  Cursing? Swearing?  I don’t think anyone, male or female need to resort to these behaviors in the workplace. Your knowledge of the subject matter being discussed and your contribution to solving problems should be your biggest voice, not how loud or often you can curse or swear.  I think some amount of fitting with the guys can be beneficial.  You can learn about and discuss football, basketball, some small amount of politics (be careful here!).  This point is not about losing yourself as a woman, but about being social and likeable, and someone others want to be around.

How about being feminine, do you need to lose your feminine side? No, I don’t think so.  If you are someone who like to tell people happy birthday, I think that is good and fine.  However, I don’t think you should go as far as taking cookies for the office or walking around with goody bags.  These are two extreme examples, but the point I am making is you don’t need to be the workplace mom.  You can be a kind person, who cares about others. Yes, I think you can have conversation about your kids, and ask about others’ kids, these are some of the things that makes being in a place for 12 hours per day bearable, and a bit fun. Another thing, don’t be the office gossip, no one should come to you to get the latest office news, on the contrary, let them come to you for information on how to accomplish a task.  This will be your biggest winning attribute in the workplace.

In summary, be yourself, hopefully you are naturally a likable person.  Be assertive and direct, this does not mean being mean and aggressive. Know your subject matter, if you don’t go get the information.  Also, be a lady in the workplace and everywhere else.  This again doesn’t mean being a door mat at work.  It just means maintaining an attitude of grace and quite strength.  Don’t forget, you will make mistakes as you navigate these waters, get back up, brush yourself off, and continue on.

Remember being nice does not equate to being weak. So have fun at work, and be a lady in a man’s world!






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