In my careers, I have worked with many more men than women. It seemed I was always working in a man’s world. For the most part, I preferred that. It seemed as if it was frequently less complicated. What woman in the workplace has not dealt with the “mean girls” at some point in life? Whether in middle school or office cubicles, there is no doubt they exist. But unlike middle school, we are generally much more capable of handling our female co-workers. We know how they work.
Yet to be successful in our jobs, working women have to learn how the male population works as well. We must also learn to successfully respond to the nuances of their nature. It was scenarios like this one that I had to manage, learning how to be that small percentage voice in a male-dominated atmosphere.
Once again, I’m in a room filled with men; I’m only one of two women in this planning session. These are good men—creative, sharp, looking for good ideas no matter what corner of the table they come from, yet the chest-pounding has begun. The one-upmanship that happens in a room filled with testosterone can be intimidating. What’s a girl to do?
5 Tips for Working in a Man’s World
1. Let the room breathe.
A strong woman doesn’t have to talk loudly or forcefully, and she most certainly does not have to thump her chest to be heard. She simply waits for the right time. Letting the testosterone roll around the room uninterrupted is always a good thing.
We don’t have to compete for airspace; we have to wait for airspace to appear. It always does. Men generally speak with conviction and certainty as they make their points. But they don’t speak long. Their testosterone rumble has definitely given you plenty of time to form your words. Let them have their say; then you make sure you have yours.
It was scenarios like this one that I had to manage, learning how to be that small percentage voice in a male-dominated atmosphere.
2. Don’t be afraid to use your knowledge of women.
“From a female perspective, I think…” We have an angle that is uniquely ours. It’s not demeaning it’s enabling. In the marketplace of life, most know that the buyers and influencers are women. We make a plethora of decisions throughout the day that brings success or failure to companies big and small. This is a unique tool is our toolbox that makes complete sense to take advantage of.
Through the years, we quit shopping at K-Mart and started shopping on Amazon. We know what appeals to our gender; what they will pay for it and how far they will drive to get it. When stated well, it will be heard. You’ll not only be heard, but you’ll bring success to the project. Remember this: men will value whatever you pitch because they have no clue what women think. They may occasionally need to be reminded of this simple fact, but that’s ok too.
3. Speak sensibly.
Communicate calmly, logically, because you’ve got a brain—a good one. I think one of our most effective tools is self-confidence. When we believe in our value and contribution, we don’t have to pound anything. We simply have to present our knowledge, position, and plan.
Unfortunately, sometimes when we get passionate, even angry, we can be misinterpreted by our male counterparts. It’s not a fair interpretation, but it exists nonetheless.
So instead of taking that arduous road to change their judgment, don’t fight that perception; work with it. Stay calm, but firm, use passion for a point, leave angry words in your office. Display well the unique talent, gifts and ideas that you possess. Then communicate well the amazingly unique perspective that you bring to the table, especially in the testosterone-filled working world.
4. Never doubt your abilities.
Hormone levels or types do not dictate our ability. Now I have to concede they can affect our emotions! But our ability absolutely not. We have talent, gifting that is not gender specific. Both genders within their pools contain creative, analytical, managerial, administrative, and executive talents. As you discover those within you nurture them, educate yourself, continue learning and honing your craft no matter what area you are capable of filling.
Then believe in yourself. You are no less than any co-worker of either gender. If you believe in yourself, others will.
5. Put your energy where it matters.
It’s easy to want to wage the battle of the sexes. To put your effort into changing the dynamic between the working genders. While there is a season to absolutely do that and some battles have to be waged I would recommend accepting the fact that we are different. We work differently, our natures look at the world and tackle challenges we face that are unique to our gender. That’s a great thing, not something to be disdained. Respect can be earned by both genders by accepting the fact that we are different, but neither are less than.
So, look at the positive they bring and celebrate it. Men need to feel appreciated (as do we). Find men who will look positive at what you bring and make them allies. When you show that you respect their ability and the work they produce, it truly helps build a working relationship. More often than not, they will reciprocate.
You don’t have to prove you’re one of them; you’re not. As one woman in a room of men, your viewpoint is unique and valuable. So step in, step up, and step out in this world where your very gender, along with your vast ability, allows you to shine.
For more on being a working woman, check out this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Can Women Do It All? With Christy Wright of Business Boutique – 091