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By Judith Nowlin
I think it’s fair to say that women are experiencing a crisis of confidence in the workplace. Every day, we are barraged with conflicting advice on how to deal with our female characteristics—fully embrace them or totally repress them.
The concept of “womanly intuition” is a great example. Deeply embedded in our vocabulary, the phrase takes on conflicting connotations depending on who is wielding it. Some cite it as a positive thing—a strength particular to the feminine genius. More often though, there is a subtle implication of inferiority—an assumption that an intuitive-decision must be emotionally-driven, at the expense of reason and logic.
Both understandings can be detrimental to women in the workplace, particularly in situations of mixed gender. We are pressured to either fully embrace or completely reject a way of decision-making based solely on the assumption that it is a gendered thing—an assumption, by the way, that is not based in fact. According to studies, women are just as analytical as men, if not more so. And while women are often motivated by a “gut feeling,” they rely heavily on data when making their final decisions.
Yet there is a reason why the phrase has gained so much traction. “Intuition” may not be the proper label for it, but women do have special powers of perception that are deeply embedded in their genetic makeup: some physical, such as wider peripheral vision; and some psychological, such as heightened emotional intelligence. And tapping in to these differences is the first step to achieving confidence in the workplace.
In nearly a decade of working side-by-side with women in one of the most intimate settings imaginable, the delivery room, one of the recurring themes was, “Listen to your body. Your body knows. Your body is giving you intelligent messages that it is asking you to respond to.”
When it comes to functioning as a business woman in a primarily male-dominated field such as technology, Sheryl Sandberg suggests that women “lean in.” I’d like to supplement that idea with the charge to “tune in” to your own body, your own vulnerabilities and your own strengths. The body can serve as a remarkable insights dashboard if we allow it.
Here Are 3 Ways To Solve The Confidence Crisis:
- Tap Into Group Dynamics
Remember that bit I mentioned about wider peripheral vision? Turns out, women are more successful at gauging the feelings of a room of people and learning the group dynamic because we can see more of them at a time. This means that in a board meeting, a woman may have a better finger on the pulse of the group, how different figures are interacting with one another and the best way to proceed with a topic or proposal. She can more quickly pick up on tensions and body language because her visuals are broader.
If you “feel” like now may be the best time to bring up that question, because everyone “seems” relaxed, know that your feelings are probably more accurate than you give them credit for because of your physical orientation, and have the confidence to speak up.
- Trust Your Gut
There is often reluctance among women to talk about “gut feelings” or have their decisions credited to “intuition,” because they feel that this association impacts their credibility. There is also a tendency for women to distrust their emotions based on the same criteria. We need to stop thinking along those lines. Let go of the idea that our emotional reactions exclude reason and be confident to trust our hunches. Oftentimes, our “gut feelings” are produced as a result of experience: data that we have subconsciously collected over time. We use inductive logic to draw universal conclusions from these specific circumstances, and on that basis, our “emotional” reactions to situations are often deeply rooted in reason.
- Leverage Your Emotions
For similar reasons of being dismissed or discredited, a fear of being “too emotional” often determines a woman’s choices in the workplace—in everything from smiling at a co-worker to using an exclamation point in an email. Yet according to research, the qualities of effective leaders are almost synonymous with emotional intelligence (EQ). Because of our higher EQ, women are more likely to be cautious, focused and reliant on data in times of high stress. We are better coaches and mentors, more adaptable to change, and better attuned to organizational problems. Perhaps most importantly, our heightened EQ majorly contributes to the collective intelligence (IQ) of a group: according to research, the greatest contributing factor to group IQ is social sensitivity.
Above all, women need to trust their place at the table. In a world where the odds are stacked against us, we should be confident that we’ve earned the place we’ve achieved, and that our successes come from who we are as individuals, emotions and all.
January 29, 2019 at 06:34AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs