Webinar presenter Brenda Dietzman answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Confident Female Leadership. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: I have that command presence confidence. I embrace it and I play big, as you say. The problem is that there were very few women in my agency, and I found that my confidence is a problem for the men and, in a lot of cases, the women. As a result, I’m not openly attacked, rather, it’s little things, little looks, little obstacles. So, how do I deal with these situations in a way that is strong and effective, but won’t hurt my career?
Brenda Dietzman: That’s a really tough situation. You know, one of the best groups that I love to give this talk to is a group of all men.
And just, men, no women in the room other than myself. Because they actually start asking questions that are kind of awkward, maybe, even sometimes. But they learn about it the hurdles. I think this is important to understand, first of all, how bias is formed. I just had a conversation here at the conference this morning about how we just get this training about how not to be biased and how not to be racist. And we don’t understand why we are biased. And understanding the information behind that, I think, really goes a lot, because then men, women, however, people identify, everybody can start to understand the bias that comes in those shortcuts that come in that make us go, “Yeah, I don’t like it when she acts that way.”
So, I think it’s important for that educational piece, and having good, honest conversations with allies that you have, who are open to this information, who want to see you win. Both men and women are going to be very important for you, especially if you’re in a male-dominated field, which I know a lot of people on this call are, to make them aware as well. And if you start off by saying, it’s not your fault, it’s the way that you know what you saw growing up. It’s what you see on television. It’s what, you know, societal norms are, it kind of breaks down the barriers and they start to be a little bit more open to it. And if they are truly your allies, if they want to see you win, and they start to understand this, then they will start to question their own thoughts. Just like I’ve asked you to question your own thoughts today. And then that’s going to make it easier for you to be your authentic self at work. But it’s never easy.
Audience Question: I got a talking-to from a female boss for my e-mails being abrupt when they were the same in tone as many male colleagues. Any suggestions on how to handle this dynamic?
Brenda Dietzman: Again, it goes back to education, but, you know, I joke that women should get paid more for being supervisors because it takes us longer to do the same job because we have to make our e-mails longer, we have to soften things a little bit to get points across sometimes. And that’s just, first of all, it’s not fair. So, the educational piece is big and calling people out and saying, “Okay, tell me what’s different between my e-mail and you know John’s e-mail?” And then having an open, honest conversation. Now, there are people in your life that you will not have those conversations with because they’re not going to be open to those conversations. But the ones that are open to it, have that conversation because it’s something that they just don’t know because it’s subconscious. And if they start to understand it, they’re going to want to see you win more and not say silly things like that about your e-mail was abrupt or whatever. So, again, education, know your audience, know who’s going to be open to that and know who’s not.
Audience Question: Physical actions and verbalizations are often misconstrued, especially for women of color. We’re often seen as attitudinal and/or difficult to get along with when it’s in actuality, we’re just assertive. Hi, Brenda. I’m a woman of color who has been repeatedly told that when I am direct with information, I’m being too aggressive. So how do we navigate this challenge?
Brenda Dietzman: You know, women of color have a huge issue with that. Look at television programs. You look at the unfortunate and horrendous stereotypes that are out there for women of color, especially black women. You also have other stereotypes for Asian women and Hispanic women. Those ugly and wrong stereotypes. So, when people meet you, they just assume that you are going to be that because those are the shortcuts, right? Again, education, is a big piece of that, being aware of that stereotype, and having open and honest conversations with people. And I know I’ve given the same answer for the last three questions. I just want to tell you, first of all, to everyone who’s asked questions like this, I am sorry that you are having to deal with this. I am sorry that you are going through this. I am especially sorry, for people of color, for people in the LGBTQ community, of minorities of any sort, that has to deal with the stereotypes, these shortcuts, that limit them that create hurdles for them in the workplace, at home, in society. I’m sorry that you have to go through that. That is why webinars like this, this is why information like this, books Dr. Dolly Chugh is a great author out there. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are great as well. Learning and reading and understanding this is important. And so, I would just encourage everyone to do that, because that’s the answer. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make this happen, but I can’t. I can only do things like this. I can only educate one person, or in this case, one thousand people at a time, to maybe open their eyes a little bit and become allies for each other. We’ve got to help each other. For instance, let me give you this. When a woman sits in an interview, sits in a meeting, or whatever, and brags about herself.
Like, I came up with this really good idea of, blah, blah, blah, she gets penalized for that, because that’s seen as assertive, decisive, driven, it’s not seen as communal. It’s the team’s success, it’s not the woman’s success or the leader’s success and she’s a female. But as a woman, if I look across the table, and I’m like, “Wendy had this incredible idea the other day and she shared it with me, I think we should go with this. It was absolutely genius.” She does not get penalized for that, nor do I. So, I think that we have to find allies in our life. Whether it’s other minorities, or men that are going to stand up for us and help us, we need to find that, and start to overcome these hurdles. At the same time, educating everybody, and raising kids that don’t have these biases, that’s the other thing.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Confident Female Leadership.