Four Ways to Trail Blaze as the Only Woman in X…
Being the only female…
on a team, class environment, important meeting, or leadership role can be intimidating (at first). In college, I decided to major in technology and when I took my first coding class (totally love nerdy stuff) I quickly realized I wasn’t like the rest of my classmates. I felt outnumbered, out of place, and I couldn’t relate to anyone… 98% were males.
Sidenote: it wasn’t the best dating scenario either not one of them was HOT (go figure!).
Through that experience I initially felt like I had a disadvantage, however it became a huge gain for me in the long run. I learned how to quickly adapt in uncharted territory, gain respect, and was viewed as a team partner in class.
If you find yourself in a similar situation where you’re trying to be sworn into the “boys club” or establish yourself as a professional confident woman, below are Four behaviors you NEED to know in order to be successful as the trailblazer:
1. Be authentic
If you don’t want to be part of the good ol’ boys club, DON’T. No one is forcing you to drink whiskey on the rocks, cuss (although I drop F* bombs like a sailor), or act like a guy to be appreciated in your role. When you are authentic with your value, you will be confident and your team, colleagues, or classmates will pick up on your no BS energy and respect that you are who you are and not trying to be anyone else.
2. Set boundaries
People on your team will honor your boundaries. For instance, know when to say NO and absolutely no flirting… there are other ways to get what you want in the workplace. Be direct with what you’re willing to commit to or take part in, use words like “I will…”, “I feel…”, “No, thanking you for understanding.”. Stay away from words such as “try”, “maybe” and “hope”.
3. Don’t be the mother or caretaker
You’re not Donald Draper’s secretary so don’t put yourself in situations where you’re fetching coffee, lunch or bringing in cookies unless it’s for a company wide Potluck. And if you do bring in treats to the office or provide an afternoon Starbucks run, it needs to be mutual with your male counterparts.
4. Listen first, then speak up
Great leaders and professionals know how to listen and talk when appropriate. You can lead and gain respect by your actions and executing your role. Make eye contact, don’t interrupt (and if you do interrupt, acknowledge you are interjecting), use body language such as head nods to let the speaker know you’re engaged and listening. And wait at least 10-15 seconds to let the speaker finish their thoughts before responding back.
5. Ask questions and be curious about your team mates
The best way to get someone interested and on your side is to ask them questions about themselves and listen to their story. Genuinely remember things about who they are (wife’s name, kids names, favorite food, hobbies…).
Being the only woman on your team is an advantage not a disadvantage. You bring a dynamic approach to ANY male dominant environment you may face.