Women who win

Gauri Chhabra
International Women’s day came and went. It created a usual flurry of emotions, some acknowledgement about women’s rights and how we need to improve the status of women and then …NOTHING.
Year after year we see the same story being repeated. We need to come to a point when we do not need a day to pay tribute to women or shake ourselves from our complacent slumber.
Gender v/s behaviors associated with the gender:
People don’t take me seriously because I’m a girl,” said a friend who walked up to me during a seminar we were taking my junior year of college.
I wanted to say “People don’t take you seriously because you talk like a girl they have stereotyped in their minds”, but subtlety has always been my suit.Oftentimes people discriminate against women not because of the gender, but because of behaviors associated with the gender. Of course, it would be ideal if people accepted women as they were, but expectations and biases do not change overnight. In the meantime, here are some lessons I have learned during the many years of my association with the corporate sector and other areas of work. Acceptance does not come easy, you need to learn certain behavior patterns at work place to be taken seriously.
Play the dominance game:
When men talk, their goal is to assert and take a stand. When women talk, they tend to bridge the gaps. This is archetypal. Come out of it in case you want to be seen and heard. Arm yourself with facts. While in Rome do as Romans do. You may have noticed that men seem to love facts. When two men meet, they go back and forth with all the facts they know about football, music, restaurants, and whatever else. You may have learned to tune this out as something benign that men like to do.But ignore what seems to be a cute male idiosyncrasy, and you lose your place in the social hierarchy. When men do this fact exchange, they are sizing each other up-the male human equivalent to mutual sniffing in the animal world. Men tend to approach conversations with the goal of achieving dominance. In contrast, women tend to approach conversations with the goal of preventing the other people from taking a subordinate position. Men state facts, and women give compliments. As a result, when men and women converse, both male and female observers will report that the man “won” the conversation.
You can get around this “discrimination” by joining this dominance game. When talking to men at work, make sure not to “lose” the conversation. Get used to showing up to a conversation and asserting your position. Get used to playing fact ping pong. Get used to showing up and stating your credentials. If you want to make a point, have the facts to back yourself up. Stock up on “fact ammunition.” If someone is sizing you up, don’t just give compliments. Play the game.
Come out of the’ good girl’ syndrome:
I remember my mom telling me “Good girls do not do this. Good girls do not do that” So, while growing up I had a mental checklist while reacting or responding to situation. “Does it be hove a good girl?” so much so that attention of ‘being good’ took over the attention of being honest and courageous to present blatant facts. Always self -censoring, always measuring myself against the ‘good girl yardstick’. An undergraduate professor of mine once noted that I rarely asked questions in class. I told her I was intimidated by the quality of questions asked by other students in the class, who were mostly boys. She told me to notice the “hit rate” of questions the men asked, pointing out that the actual percentage of good questions hovered around 50%.
Women often lose out on the opportunity to seem smarter because we are socialized to self-censor. Starting from a young age, girls are told they need to appear perfect. As a result, girls hesitate to raise their hands in class unless they are sure of the answers. These girls grow into women who hesitate to speak up in class and in meetings. The male peers get more credit for asking questions and having good ideas. In addition, their male peers also have the advantage of getting more feedback from their environments.To appear more competent and creative, learn to censor your self-censorship. Pretend you are the cockiest guy in the room. When you hesitate to ask a question or hesitate to express an idea, pretend you are that guy. Don’t worry about other people thinking what you say is stupid.
Own it. That is what people will remember.
Do not give up:
One of the male members in our project teams told me that he often sees women “fight wrong.” He observed that women often make men uncomfortable because the men perceive them as unpredictable. The men felt like the women they work with randomly blow up at them for no reason. He said he was reluctant to continue working closely with the women.This negative perception of women occurs because of a miscommunication that arises from different fighting styles. Boys grow up sparring, physically and otherwise. They become accustomed to engaging with each other through a series of small conflicts: for dominance, to resolve issues, or just for the heck of it. As a result, they also establish codes for fighting: Fights are announced ahead of time, and what happens during a fight stays within the boundaries of the fight. Girls, on the other hand, grow up learning to avoid conflict. Girls fight less frequently and more dramatically. As a result, adult men and women have different expectations about the frequency and nature of conflict. These different expectations can cause men to find women unpredictable and irrational.
To establish a reputation as being rational and predictable, learn to approach conflicts as sport. Get accustomed to fighting small skirmishes instead of waiting for large battles. Learn the codes for fighting fair-for instance, tell people ahead of time that you are going to disagree with them.
Most importantly, keep professional disagreements separate from personal relationships.
Do not be gibberish:
Come out of the gibberish baby tone that you have. Thisvocal tendency could be responsible for holding you back professionally.For women, there is a tension between speaking authoritatively and using language to get what you want. There are legitimate reasons for women to do this: By conveying friendliness, these vocal patterns are “powerful tools for building relationships.” Unfortunately, in male-dominated environments, these habits are often judged as being insecure, emotional, or stupid.
Fortunately, you can easily prevent this negative judgment. If you find your vocal habits hard to break, record yourself speaking and figure out what you need to improve: Take note of upward intonation and trailing off at the ends of sentences.
Appearance matters:
Appearance turns out to be absolutely essential to executive presence, primarily as the first bar one must hurdle in order to be assessed on other, more critical faculties. More than any other physical trait, good grooming has been considered as the most impactful physical trait for women. Appearing polished and “put together” is less about what you wear, per se, but how you wear it. In effect, looking well groomed requires being appropriate and authentic; attractive but not sexy, and chic but not trendy or high fashion.
Walking these fine lines is part of passing through the appearance filter, at all stages of your career.
Therefore, my message to all women is-
Before organizations change and societies accept you in their folds- break free of your own shells and the behavior patterns that shackle you…
To become the woman who wills and the woman who wins…


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