stereotypes

The secret to getting noticed for all the right reasons for executive women

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I was not rescued by a Prince. I was the adminstrator of my own rescue
— Elizabeth Gilbert

A funny thing happened to me on a webinar the other day.  I was in the middle of introducing the Gold Standard of Executive Branded - proactive, intentional, future focused and strategic when someone asked me a question "Isn't it disingenuous to do this? Surely if we're doing great work people will notice us?" 

My heart stopped.  It was such a great question.

I then took a deep breath and thought deeply before I responded, because I knew exactly where she was coming from.

Let me explain.

My new book From Invisible to Invincible - a self-promotion handbook for executive women (advance orders available here) was originally going to be called Noticed: For all the right reasons. 

Oh, how I loved that title. It was punchy. It was going to have a sealed section with all the wrong reasons (and no, not those sort of wrong reasons). This book was about being noticed by the right audience, at the right time, in the right place with the right key messages in the right currency.

But when I reflected on the issues that many women face: a lack of agency or a tendency to rely more on waiting to be noticed than creating the notice, I simply could not go to print with that title. It would convey the wrong message and keep us stuck once again playing small.

THE SECRET

The secret to creating a career that really counts is that success comes soonest to those who create it themselves - deliberately, proactively, strategically and in a future focused manner.  Not to those who wait around for it to happen to them or for someone to hand it to them.

The socialisation of young women and girls is comes from fairy stories and romance novels where the female protagonist waits to be rescued. Even if we didn't consciously buy into that narrative, it was all around us - television, advertising, magazine articles, our mothers, grans, aunties, female cousins, babysitters or childcare workers who reared us with those same stereotypes in mind. 

After all -

  • Men sweat, while women glow

  • Men go on quests and adventures, while women are required to stay at home waiting and keeping the hearth fires warm

Our history is flooded with images of women sitting passively and looking amazing, without a hair out of place as though as though we didn't break a sweat, Mona Lisa style, while imagery of men is all guts and glory, of men riding, lifting, heaving, throwing, running, creating and leading.

This creates a tendency towards a lack of agency for women. We subconsciously end up imagining that someone needs to tap us on the shoulder, for us to wait to be invited, for it to be worthwhile; that being discovered like Australia’s Top Model is the holy grail (thank you NOT Dolly Magazine of the 70's and 80s'); and this somehow perpetuates a mixed up mess of, if you actually create your own success then it isn't as valid.

Logically this doesn’t even make sense, but it’s so ingrained in the thinking of yesteryear that it’s hard to decode or dismiss even now.

In 2015, I was attending an International Women’s Day function and was seated at a table with a mature-aged (75+) business woman renowned in the dispute resolution sector. She had just published her first, much awaited, book. When I asked her why she waited so long to write the book, she replied ‘No-one had invited me to write one before, so I didn’t think it would be the right thing to do’

This exemplifies much of what many of us still hold to be true. We're still waiting to be invited because we think it's the right thing to do. 

But the new rules for women are - if you don't have a seat at the table, BYO chair. 

This takes focus, striving, strategy, influencing others and right effort.

So to answer the question? No this is not disingenuous. We women simply got the wrong memo. This is the secret ingredient that we've only recently stumbled upon. The men and women winning all the glory are quite simply, creating it for themselves.

Instead, we need to stop waiting and get on with the business of being great then create a world we want to inhabit.

As television producer Shonda Rhimes famously said ... 'I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don't call me lucky. Call me a badass'.

YOUR THOUGHTS?  Have you had your badass moment yet?  Or deep down, are you still waiting?  Drop me a note and let me know.

#Icreatesheroes #womenofimpact #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

 

Share if you dare, to inspire another woman somewhere!

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

When sexist comments make your blood boil ..... go postal!

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When did it become a zero sum game of being good at managing money or good at relationships? I’m pretty good at walking and chewing gum at the same time.

A funny thing happened on the way to Brisbane the other day.  I was sitting on the plane, when a man sat down next to me.  We exchanged details (him: financial columnist, me: executive coach for executive women).  The ensuing conversation (documented below), ended with me feeling frustrated, flabbergasted ..... and angry.

Oh no.  I'm "that angry woman"

The Angry Woman Stereotype

The stereotype of an angry woman is  ...... emotional, out of control, less logical and less credible. We all saw the way that Hillary Clinton was portrayed when she displayed anger.  It's a tough gig to remain credible as a woman when you are known for being angry.

What the Research Says

Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at the differences in the way we perceive angry men or women and highlighted the double standard.

They found that "women's anger worked against them, while men's anger served as a "powerful" tool of persuasion. When the holdout was a male who expressed anger, participants significantly doubted their own opinion, even when they were in the majority. But if the holdout was a woman who expressed anger, she actually had less influence over participants -so much so that it was the only scenario in the study in which participants became more confident in their own opinion that opposed that of the woman."

The alternatives for women are pretty limited - grace and poise under pressure still come to mind.

Then that's it. Nada.

Going Postal

So what recourse did I have? How could I do something, express my outrage yet stay credible? 

So I created a (semi) viral LinkedIn Post. I call it "going postal". 

  • Going Postal - normally refers to out of control anger. Definitely a career limiting move (CLM) for leading women and men.

  • "going postal" (note lower case and yes this is my new definition) - creating a LinkedIn viral Post to drive awareness and change.

Jane Anderson, Influencer and blogging expert, in a recent blog talks about staying above the line.  

  • Below the line = criticising, negative, using fear.

  • Above the line =. drawing attention and proposing a positive solution
    So my definition of "going postal" also includes an element of positivity.

So what got my dander up? 

Read the blog below - then head over to LinkedIn and tag a financially savvy woman somewhere! 

The above the line action? After a week, I'll be emailing my flight buddy with a list of fabulously financially savvy women for him to refer to in his next column! 

Let's kick this stereotype to the curb (yet again).

Read on .... and be prepared to be flabbergasted  ...


I was shocked  by a sexist comment yesterday on a flight. “#Women simply can’t manage money as well as men”, he said. 

This wasn't just any sexist guy, it was  #Financial columnist for a well known publication 

“Women don’t care about money - they care more about people“ he went onto say.

WTF??? 🤯 

A total insult to most of the women in my circle of friends and colleagues if not all women everywhere! 

You’d think I was back in the 1950's   

I can't even excuse his age because my grandma (even older than he) was AWESOME at #financialmanagement. 

I nearly had an apoplexy! 

Bias and stereotypes are rampant in our business world. And with so few women visibly leading the financial space, it’s no wonder. 

It’s far easer to accept the old narrative and stereotyped norms as a version of the truth. Hang out with enough people who think the same as you, and you’ll end up with a bad case of confirmation bias to boot! 

Three financially savvy women I admire -

  • Sally Krawcheck, Ellevest

  • Christine Lagarde, IMF - and closer to home

  • Gail Kelly, 1st female CEO of a major Australian bank

 >> COMMENT - Which women do you know who are AWESOME at finances and who care about #finance and #people?  TAG a financially savvy woman somewhere.

Let’s kick this stereotype to the curb (yet again).    

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (vale Aretha)  


HAVE YOUR SAY - Don't forget to tag in the comments on LinkedIn (or send me the names) of fabulously financially savvy women. I'll be sending my new friend a list.

#feminineambitionrocks #womenofimpact #linkedInlove

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Worried about getting older as an executive woman? Think again!

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Are you worried about getting older? Worried about discrimination or that you may simply be “past it” and not able to cut it any more?

Well maybe it's time to stop worrying and start celebrating your maturity, particularly if you are a woman.

Just last month, Jack Zengar, Zengar Folkman, shared stunning insights into age and confidence.  

Women gain in confidence far more as we age.

(Hallelujah!)

We may feel less confident in our 20s and 30s, but there is light at the end of the tunnel

  • Our confidence increases (men and women) as we head towards 40
  • As a woman your confidence will increase even more through 50 
  • And then from 50 to 60+ it's all up hill! 

In the words of Helen Reddy “I am woman, hear me roar”

To paraphrase “I am a more mature woman, see me soar!”

Combine this with research that we all get happier with age, we now have two great reasons to be happy about ageing.

For those experiencing age discrimination, let's not dismiss the fact that our society celebrates youth and older women are an invisible segment in our community.  I don't want to dismiss the fact that this happens. So let this confidence research be your secret weapon, to help you get on the front foot and turn your age into a tactical advantage. 

► What about you? Do you feel more confident as you age?  Why not get involved in the conversation on LinkedIn? Have your say.

#MakeABiggerDifference #FeminineAmbitionRocks #WomenOfImpact

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

What's the value you add?

Did you know that it's really common for women to talk down their achievements and undervalue themselves when working in a successful group alongside men?   Well according to research conducted by Michelle Haynes & Madeline Heilman of the University of Massachusetts, we do.

My own observations were very apparent in committee meetings when it came to receiving compliments.  A woman would say something like -

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"Oh it was nothing, I was just doing my job. The whole team was involved. And did you see the project nearly came undone in February? ...... But we got there in the end. Thanks."

Whereas a man was far more likely to simply say,

"Thanks. Yeah, it was great wasn't it?".

Why is this important?

This is important because of perception.  And perception is reality, whether you like it or not.

If you keep on giving out the message that you don't think you're particularly skilled, or that the work was nothing special, other people will start to believe you. Worse?  You'll run the risk of starting to believe you aren't good enough yourself.

But what happens if people think I'm bragging?

Somehow the stereotype for women and achievement is for us to act demure, to be humble and to downplay so as not to be seen as bragging - especially around men. But we don't need to.  In fact, our workplaces and business in general will be far better off if we don't - and both the Lean In and gender diversity arguments are predicated on this.

Prevention is better than cure

The best way I've found to prevent yourself from feeling like you are bragging is by doing the work and finding the evidence. And in this case the work consists of quantifying and qualifying your wins and achievements on a daily/weekly basis until it becomes habitual for you to think this way.

  1. Activity:  At the end of every day list all your wins, the things that went well.  
  2. Activity:  At the end of every week make a ritual of documenting your achievements once again with a 'what, how, how much and why' approach. If you can qualify please do, and if you can quantify that's even better.
  • What was the achievement?
  • Why you? (expertise and personal qualities)
  • How much? Can you quantify (or qualify) the value of the project?
  • Why? Why should this be important to the success of the business overall?

(Note re activity 2: Imagine how easy your 6 monthly CV upgrade is when you quantify and qualify your results on a weekly basis? And imagine how invaluable this would be in a meeting where your contribution was being dismissed?)

What does it look like?  

Here are some examples to inspire you

Example 1:

  • What? Identified exciting new business opportunities for the organisation
  • Why you? Expertise: technical qualification, continuous professional up-skilling, negotiation. Qualities: persistence and willingness to take a risk
  • Value? $300mil+ over the next 5 years
  • Why? Contributes to revenue KPIs around profitability and returns to shareholders

Example 2:

  • What? Updated Ts&Cs for a customer facing business unit and it reduced the numbers of customers ringing the contact centre to clarify or complain
  • Why you? Expertise: root cause analysis, emotional intelligence, data analysis, customer care. Qualities: persistence, ability to cut through the clutter
  • Value: Reduction in call volumes contributed to contact centre being able to spend more time building engagement with the customers who did ring and increased CSat scores by 10%
  • Why? Increases customer satisfaction ratings throughout the business, prevents customer churn and reduces inefficiencies as part of our broader customer and productivity strategies, and we know that it costs 8 x more to purchase a new custoemr than retain an existing customer

 Example 3:

  • What? This week I helped five women articulate the value they add, why this is important and to believe in themselves again (this one was mine)
  • Why you? Expertise: coaching, career development, leadership, executive branding. Qualities: active listening, emotional intelligence, clear communication and absolute dedication to my cause
  • Value?  Priceless!!!!
  • Why? My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.

Why is this important?

We're bridging the gap between perception and reality. When we provide others with evidence of our contribution in measures they understand, it's pretty difficult for them to dismiss, bypass or dispute.   Plus the small voice on your shoulder has far less influence and you're far more likely to lean into those stretch opportunities where you truly get to make a bigger difference.

"Compliant and Conscientious" or "Making a Bigger Difference" Executive Brand?

As with everything, you get to decide.  You can embrace a complaint and conscientious Executive Brand that does things well, rigorously, thoroughly and properly, but the opportunities will likely remain limited. The alternative is a bigger, bolder and far more courageous Executive Brand that delivers results and adds substantial value. And I think you can guess which one gets to make the bigger difference.  

Action

The next step is yours.  You can think about an apple, you can study an apple, but until you eat the apple you don't really know what an apple is.  So build this practice into your daily/weekly habits until it becomes part of your blueprint.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Drop me an email and get in contact.  Better yet, send me one of your achievements in the above format!

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Eight insights to help you negotiate the divide between "nice girl" and "hard nosed b*tch"

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
― Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Over the past few months nearly every single one of my clients has asked for advice on negotiation and the irony is that several of my clients are negotiation experts in and of their own right!   

This got me thinking. Why is it that these women don’t like negotiating? It can’t be that they aren’t good at it because these particular women are highly sought after dispute resolution experts  and do really well advocating for others.  What else might be going on?

Is it because there is a social stigma attached to negotiating for yourself? Is it because women are perceived as greedy if and when we do, and greed is associated with appetite?

Possibly and probably. Anyone who is anyone knows that appetite and women are two words that don’t go together comfortably in a sentence even in this day and age.

But when we are going after big career or entrepreneurial goals our appetites will show whether we like it or not. If we want something hard enough it’s difficult to hide it! And neither we should.

“Victor Ciam of Remington fame - he liked the razor so much he bought the company. Big goals require big appetites!”

My expertise is in decoding the differences between male and female brain biology and interpreting how that may play out in a work environment. For example, in general women are more risk averse, which plays out with many entrepreneurial women starting with lower goals and those in corporates wanting to see more evidence of risk mitigation strategies or research done. 

The benefit of having a brain that scans for risk is obvious – it’s a survival, "playing it safe" mechanism - and frequently good for business. But the down side of having a brain that constantly scans for risk is exactly that. When we feel uncertain, underprepared or under threat, the risk part of our brain will kick into overdrive and slow things down, keep us playing small, and keep us in the “comfort zone” of safe.

So here are eight interesting insights about women, perception and negotiation that might just blow your mind or at least help you navigate the divide far more easily.

1.     Take ownership

We need to take ownership of the fact that we avoid negotiating for ourselves.

Men negotiate four times more frequently and when we do negotiate we ask for 30% less than men – according to Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask

Wow!  Really? Yes really. 

In the past year I’ve spoken with many an HR manager and recruiter. They definitely agree with this observation that women ask for raises less frequently and also ask for less when they do ask. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In refers to this research along with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in The Confidence Code.

We need to own this piece of the puzzle when reflecting on getting ahead - and do something about it.

2.     It’s easier and possibly more beneficial to have someone else do your negotiation for you. 

Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at the Center for Public Leadership and Faculty Director of Women & Power at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that

"Women do substantially better negotiating for others than for themselves,"

"It's got to do with social stereotypes."

And the reality, according to Bowles, is that when we as women do negotiate hard for ourselves, there is a social cost as we come out looking less likeable.  And once again we’re back to navigating that double edged sword between “nice girl” and “hard nosed b*tch”. 

And while it’s not always possible to have a salary broker advocating on your behalf, maybe we need to accept the social cost in the short term, because the very real cost in dollars is undermining us later in life with ANZ recently calculating that the gap in salary over the span of a career equates to $700K. When you weigh it up like that, maybe likability is a small price to pay.

3.     Stop talking up how well you do the job – and start talking up your value

Last week I wrote about the issue of communicating value. As women we frequently get stuck in the mode of doing the job properly and well. We imagine that "doing the job well" is a fast track to success and we polish up “doing the job” as if  it were the end result. But when something new comes along or we start dreaming of something better, all we have is the language and experience of doing the job well and that won't get you very far, very fast.

Carrie Gallant, negotiation expert, talks about leveraging value. Be sure to bring the value of what you offer to the table – context and big picture thinking – and communicate that clearly and articulately.

“Leverage is essentially what you bring that is valuable to someone else, plus your ability to help them see that value.” Carrie Gallant, Goop

 

4.     Change what you believe about good negotiation skills

Tara Mohr, Playing Big, writes about a really interesting study where men and women were paired in mock negotiation. Some of the pairs of negotiators were told that traits frequently associated with women were great for negotiation:

  • Good listening,
  • Emotional intelligence, and
  • Good communication skills

Guess what - in the pairs who were given this information the women outperformed the men!

So instead of heading into a negotiation worrying that you aren’t good at it, focus instead on the skills that you do have (listening, emotional intelligence and communication) and leverage those for beneficial outcomes.

5.     Don’t think of yourself as a woman negotiating

I’m extrapolating here and making assumptions but the following research may throw some light on it.  In 1999 Margaret Shih conducted a study at Harvard of 46 undergraduate Asian women.  They were asked to sit a maths test (traditionally thought of as a weakness in women’s abilities). When the women were reminded of their gender prior to the test, their test scores dropped compared to a control group.  Interestingly when the women were reminded of their Asian heritage they didn’t perform as poorly.

Yes, I’m extrapolating here – but perhaps by focusing on gender all the time, we are making things worse. Focus instead on gender neutrality.

7. Reframe your language from “negotiating” to “asking” and you’ll more likely ask for a payrise

Apparently the word “negotiation” has negative connotations for many women. Another study conducted, once again with Linda Babcock involved in the research indicated that by using language such as “asking” which is perceived as less intimidating, more polite and more role consistent, women were more likely to initiate negotiations.

“Consequently, gender differences in initiating negotiations persisted when situations were framed as opportunities for negotiation yet were eliminated when situations were framed as opportunities to ask.”

Ah the power of language.  Ask, don't negotiate. 

8.    You are not likely to be any more or any less successful than men

In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Margaret a. Neale and Thomas Z Lys they write:

“When both men and women have similar expectations about compensation packages, there is no difference in their likelihood to negotiate. Empirical evidence also shows that when women do negotiate, they’re no more or less successful than their male counterparts.”

So in a nutshell

  •  Do ask. Find ways to ask formally, informally, light heartedly and seriously. But do ask.
  • Instead of avoiding the issue or preparing by reading articles about why women don’t negotiate as well as men, simply go into the “asking” with an understanding that women do negotiate well. 
  • Do prepare - it will help mitigate your hypersensitive risk antennae triggers of under preparing, uncertainty and feeling like you are under threat - and more on preparation next week.
  • Remember that when we’re reminded of our gender we are more likely to underperform, yet when we focus on the traits and skills that are great in a negotiation, we do really well.
  • And finally – there is never a good time for a tough conversation. 
"The right time, while not perfect, is now. "

It’s your career and your future – and your ability to navigate that double edged sword between "nice girl" and "hard nosed b*tch", will be in part what differentiates you as a leader.

“If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing. ” ― Margaret Thatcher


Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution

 If you missed it - The F Word that Keeps Us Playing Small

  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months