I have entered this world recently, but I’ve quickly noticed how things work. I remember in particular one of last year’s conferences on IT. Of course, the average participant was: man, about 40 years old. Percentage of women attending: 10%. My situation was even harder, because I don’t understand much of IT, unlike the remaining 9% of women at that event. Result: I had to rely heavily on my male colleagues for work, and in group discussions anyone wouldn’t even give me a second look. From that moment I began to wonder: am I sure this is really the world I chose to belong to? If I have to struggle so much, and perhaps in vain, is it really worth it?
However, the problem does not only belong to those people asking themselves these questions. It especially belongs to those people having those preconceptions or prejudices, voluntarily or involuntarily, that prevent a free and sincere communication between men and women. At this point, the solution seems obvious to me: doing anything to destroy these gender stereotypes. Or not?
I’ve been thinking about it for months and, as in all things, there is not a single way to deal with the situation. The choice depends on the personality of those who carry out their own resolution. I have selected a couple to share with you in this post.
The lioness strategy
Clearly, the first and most obvious choice is to take up the cudgels and fight all stereotypes about women and business (and more broadly, unfortunately, also about women and positions of responsibility). For example, many times I happened to have some clients who wanted to speak with the “higher levels” without even trying to solve the matter with me, without knowing how and how much I could have handled them. My reaction was, wrapped up in a kind smile, that I was the only one in that moment they would solve the issue with.
That is, forcing them (tactfully) to deal with a girl. Who maybe, after all, knows what she is doing.
The cat strategy
Another approach, more subtle but witty, is to leverage people’s prejudices, use them in one’s own favor.
People like to think that the brunettes are smarter than blondes? Try to dye your hair like Eileen for a promotion.
People believe that men are more capable of managing a business than women? Penelope and Kate have entrusted their online (real) platform to a (fake) male colleague to feel free to do business without being judged for being female.
My approach, being a hard head (and Leo even in the Zodiac), has so far mainly been the first. Pride has pushed me to throw in my most obstinate interlocutors’ face the fact that I’m a woman. In fact, wearing a skirt at meetings is a programmatic choice.
Obviously, behaviors arising from pride often lead to unsatisfactory results. On the example of other women, such as those from the articles in the links above, I have just taken the second road described in this post. Pretending to be a poor youngster who understands little of what she is doing and needs to “ask my manager to confirm.” I rarely have to ask my boss, though. For my interlocutors (men, but also women, unfortunately) the seal of the manager indeed reassures them. As a matter of fact, this technique is paying off quite well for the moment.
I hope I will not get stuck into this strategy, so I ask you: what else can we do on these occasions? What are your suggestions?