Webinar presenter Brenda Dietzman answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Developing Women as Leaders: Evidence-Based Insight and Solutions for Recruiting, Retaining, and Developing Women Leaders. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Why is it that women are so plagued with imposter syndrome? Why is it that we have this insatiable need to be overqualified for stuff?
Brenda Dietzman: Yeah, I think it comes back again to that implicit bias and butting up against what we know because what happens is that when we act leaderly which tends to be male characteristics, right, then we get penalized for it, right? And it may not be like blatant, but our subconscious picks up on people like shaking their heads, scowling, turning away, interrupting, not listening to us, and things like that. We understand whether or not, maybe, not in our pre-frontal cortex back here, right, in the back of our brains, we understand that when we act that way, people don’t like us. We transfer that, because oof we people overthink things way too much, right? We think about that and we connect the dots incorrectly that instead of people not feeling good about us acting that way, we think that they don’t think we’re competent or that we don’t think that we’re good enough to be at the table and that’s where our mind goes. So, we come back to that feeling of I’m not good enough to be where I’m at. I’m not smart enough pretty enough, whatever it is, I’m not enough and that’s the way that we feel. I wish I had a whole day to talk to you because we’d go into that a little bit more and dig into that a little bit more, but I think that’s one of the reasons.
Audience Question: So then piggybacking on that. It’s just striking to me that we see women as leaders, we’re seeing women CEOs, we’re seeing women breakthrough in so many ways and yet, we’re still having this conversation. It’s just why? Why is it? Is this just the natural evolution of things or is there something more?
Brenda Dietzman: I think it is a natural evolution. I think, generationally, it’ll start to go away because the younger generations tend to be a little bit more inclusive and diverse. But I also think that you look at Hollywood right now, which I think is one of the biggest causes of implicit bias in our communities, in our nation. We’re starting to see, you know, like the actor that plays one of the lead roles on that that TV show FBI is a practicing Muslim. How awesome is that to put that in the back of everybody’s brain that a practicing Muslim can be an incredible FBI agent or an incredible TV FBI agent. In fact, I actually saw a story last night about this on television and the reaction to that of creating more roles for people of color or Middle Eastern that actually gives us a good feeling about what we tend to think of as a stereotype. So yeah, I think it will go away. But the problem is that we’re still talking about what women wear. Yeah, well, oh, they look tired. Did we ever see that about a man? Do we ever comment on a man’s suit? No. So, there’s, there are still some things, right, and that, that we still have to work on.
Host: Know, and it’s funny because you mentioned that, I was thinking, as you were talking about, actors playing certain roles, I remember one of the interviews with the actors from Hamilton saying it was the very first time that gentlemen, as a black man, had been onstage with other men of color and they were all playing positive roles… And when you stop and really think about that, it really is powerful. Art is very powerful. So, that’s great insight.
Audience Question: Have ever heard of the Harvard IAT test that, I guess, it’s supposed to help uncover biases?
Brenda Dietzman: I think, hm. I know that there’s something to do with her, but that would be interesting. I wrote it down, and I’m going to look into that to make sure that I check on it.
Audience Question: Kind of going along with that notion, why is it that we work on ourselves but then there are those women who are catty and backstabbing and don’t support each other. How do we change that culture so that we don’t have that proclivity to do that?
Brenda Dietzman: So, this is a subject I didn’t get a chance to chat about, which, so I’m glad I brought it up. There’s something called the Queen Bee Syndrome, and this is where it comes from. Back in the day, think about back in the eighties, nineties, right, there was one woman at the top right. We had one woman on the board of directors because that made us, you know, inclusive and diverse and everything like that. There was one woman boss higher up in the organization. The problem with that was, is that there was only a place for one woman, right? So, what happened was, is that the woman on top, she knew that the only way that she could stay there was, that men weren’t threats to her, it was the other women, so she would have to cut them down. And the women at the bottom knew that the only way that they could get to the top was to cut her, right? So there became this adversarial relationship between everyone at the bottom. So, the problem with that is that we still because we grew up with that, and, again, generationally starts to go away but because we’ve grown up with that, that’s the way that we act, and we don’t even know why. Oops. I’m sorry, now, you know why. Now you get to stop it.
Host: If you explain it, I totally get it now. Oh, my gosh, that’s great.
Brenda Dietzman: Yeah, yeah, So, we, again, it goes back to understanding the implicit biases that we have, both men and women against women, and examining why we feel and why we’re doing what we’re doing. If we start to undercut a woman, we have to sit there and go, why are we doing that? Why are we doing that? It probably has something to do with the Queen Bee Syndrome.
Audience Question: You say recognize your own achievements. You’re not saying though, that we shouldn’t or can’t acknowledge others who have been involved or contribute to the success of a project, you’re not saying that right?
Brenda Dietzman: Right. No, absolutely. And again, if I had a little bit longer to talk, we would have dug into that a little bit deeper. There are absolutely times where you wouldn’t have been able to get where you’re at because of your team or because of a mentor or because you are in the right place at the right time, right? And you can absolutely acknowledge that. But we have a tendency women have a tendency to overemphasize that because, again, if I stand up and I say I’m awesome, you should hire me. We get penalized by that. In fact, you even giggled a little bit because that is uncomfortable, right? So, we have a tendency to really overemphasized, putting the praise on somebody else because when we do that, studies again show that we don’t get penalized for success when we do that. Where if we took credit, even part credit, we would get penalized. That’s a great question and thanks for clarifying that. We absolutely acknowledge other people’s assistance
Audience Question: So how do you suggest dealing with feeling like you’re never good enough, despite male co-workers, constantly getting praised? So that male co-workers are getting all that great feedback, she’s not, how do you deal with that situation? That sounds like an organizational culture issue too.
Brenda Dietzman: Yeah, that’s exactly what popped into my mind. I think that that is absolutely true. Here’s the thing, do we need other people, do we need to have other people’s support? Yes. We’re seeing that now more than ever, right? Because we haven’t been around other people, oxytocin has not been flowing as it should be in our world and everyone’s mad at each other it seems like. So we’ve really got to, we’ve really got to – It’s coming to a point right now where, and I’ve just like all of you, I have been on a journey through this year, right, through 2020, where we really have to dig inside of ourselves and come to our own conclusions about who we are and what we are. We need that outside influence, yes, but if you are in an organization that is blatantly doing that in doing that either because they’re intentionally doing it or unintentionally doing it, which can be a whole thing as well, we need to really go back to ourselves and look at the facts and literally write down. And I actually did this when I wrote the ???? book 7, 6 some years ago. I wrote down some of the accomplishments that I’d had through my career – and I wrote down the failures as well – when I got done, I was like, wow! if we really go back and look at the facts of things, you know, at the end of the day, who do I need to impress, I need to impress myself because I’m going to live with me for the rest of my life and that’s who I need to make proud of myself. If you need to stay in that organization for whatever reason, you got to do that but go back and, and honestly look at everything that you’ve done, literally not figuratively. Literally, pat yourself on the back for every single thing and you’ll feel that. You’ll feel that inner strength and it’s tough. I get it. But that’s how we change things.