Reinforcing stereotypes about women or men is damaging to both genders. Stereotypes can inhibit self-expression and one’s full potential. It solidifies outdated gender roles, as well. These stereotypes are created socially, not biologically. How can women bust the most common stereotypes that occur at work?
1. Reflect on the stereotype and accept it. Do you find a stereotype getting in your way? How much are you struggling with it? When you stop fighting it and accept what is happening, you can more easily work with it. Keep your sense of humor. You know you and other women are different from the stereotype. This removes its power for you.
2. Remain authentic and show people who you are. When people ask questions about you, give them enough information about yourself to help them see how you are different than the stereotype.
3. Be bold; change the stereotype by going against the grain of the common misconception. Balance the tendency to prove the stereotype by showing up with the opposite behavior.
Consider these common stereotypes as you apply these strategies:
If a woman is strong and direct, she’s a bitch.
Of course, if you are a woman with a strong personality, you may be confident and assertive. Don’t ever apologize for yourself. Saying “sorry” is such a common thing for women that we don’t even hear ourselves when we use this word. Be unapologetic and assertive.
If a woman listens and cooperates, she’s weak.
Women are natural collaborators. We are hard-wired for this. Listening and collaborating is a valuable strength in the workplace. Balance your listening with assertive behavior. Establish limits and boundaries.
Women are talkative.
Studies have shown that males and females use the same amount of words. If fact, men talk more than women! Watch out for this overused preamble that sounds like, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”; “you may disagree with my opinion, but…” These unnecessary introductory words reinforce the stereotype and take power from what you assert or ask.
Women are emotional.
Studies show that males and females have the same levels of emotion. However, women are usually better at expressing them. Keep expressing how you feel and use the emotions to get strategic. Be careful not to project the cause onto other’s actions or the situation.
Women are too intuitive.
Males and females are equal in preferring intuition. This stereotype can be active when you prefer to go with your creativity and use your gut feelings to arrive at your opinion. When you can back up your hypothesis with some facts, data, and evidence, you can balance this unfair stereotype.