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Sarah Cooper cartoons

We have to laugh, otherwise we’d cry. The workplace is often still a difficult place for women to navigate. We struggle to be heard, position ourselves as authority figures, and give constructive feedback to others without being seen as “too aggressive” or “threatening.”

Author and former tech executive, Sarah Cooper, finally had enough of tiptoeing around her male co-workers, just to make them feel validated. Her response: A series of satirical cartoons depicting how women can appear “non-threatening” to men.

The cartoons show female leaders in various situations—sharing their ideas, setting deadlines, finding mistakes—and how they can react to them in “threatening” vs. “non-threatening” ways.

Though the cartoons are hilarious on the surface, they portray a sad truth: women leaders are still fighting an uphill battle to gain recognition, authority, and respect.

How will you change your language so that you’re more assertive and less apologetic?

How will you stand up for yourself?

How will you make sure your voice is heard?

Your actions will set a precedent for how you’d like to be treated, and you will also help pave the way for future female leaders.

To read Sarah Cooper’s article and see her cartoons, please click HERE.

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Female Leader

How can you hold a position of power at work and live a full, rich life outside the office? How can you balance career leadership with family, volunteering, travel, friends, and personal wellbeing? It may seem intimidating or even impossible to achieve a good work-life balance if you hold a lot of responsibility in your company, but it IS possible and it’s absolutely worth it.

Take it from me—I’ve lived it. My leadership experience at 3M came with a lot of responsibility, but it helped me grow as a person and develop a wide range of skills. And yes, it was possible to have a life outside of work, even when I was managing a huge sales team in the eastern U.S.

Unfortunately, many women believe that they shouldn’t hold a position of power at work. According to a recent study at Harvard Business School, women “perceive professional power as less desirable than men do” and “women anticipate more negative outcomes from attaining a high-power position.” One of the reasons? Women, on average, have a “greater diversity of pursuits” than men do. We are typically not singularly-focused and want to accomplish many different things in our lives, beyond the workplace walls.

But should you really pass up a leadership opportunity because you think it might interfere with your goals? In my opinion, no.

Even though leadership might seem like a lot to take on, it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. As a leader, it’s up to you to practice smart time management, delegate when necessary, and perform decisive actions. You call the shots, which can give you a certain amount of flexibility and freedom in your schedule.

Additionally, if you surround yourself with a great team, you shouldn’t have to worry about stretching yourself too thin and taking on more than you should.

And if you take on a leadership role and discover it’s not for you? At least you tried. There’s no shame in backing down if you’ve given leadership your best shot and it just didn’t work.

In the words of Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, “Professional power does involve tradeoffs and sacrifices. But the thrill that comes from ownership and autonomy, of creating something according to your own vision, offers fabulous rewards that can make the trade worthwhile.”

Well said. Are you ready to lead?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There were many little lessons I took away from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, but one of the greatest ones was about women in the workplace. Her talk revolved around female equality and reclaiming the oftentimes negatively-used word “feminism.”

Being from Nigeria, Chimamanda gave some extreme examples of how women are treated as the lesser gender (not being allowed into nightclubs on their own, expected to be submissive to men, etc.), but she also noted that the problem of female equality is still alive and kicking in the U.S. Take the modern workplace, for example. As Chimamanda notes, “The higher up [the ladder] you go, the fewer women you see.” Last year, only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women.

What follows is an exert from Chimamanda’s TED Talk on selecting an outfit to wear for her first day of teaching at a United States University:

“The first time I taught a writing class in graduate school, I was worried. Not about the teaching material, because I was well prepared and I was teaching what I enjoyed. Instead, I was worried about what to wear. I wanted to be taken seriously.”

“I knew that because I was female, I would automatically have to prove my worth. And I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit.”

“The sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously. A man going to a business meeting doesn’t wonder about being taken seriously based on what he is wearing–but a woman does.”

“I wish I had not worn that ugly suit that day. Had I then the confidence I have now to be myself, my students would have benefited even more from my teaching. Because I would have been more comfortable and more fully and truly myself.”

The lesson rings clear: Be confident, be yourself! Your attitude and outward projection matters much more than the serious cut of your suit. Dress comfortably and walk into your next meeting with your shoulders up and your head high.

For the complete TED Talk, click the video link below:

 

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