Overcoming Gender Perceptions

In a research study testing influence, participants were shown a series of photos of men and women and asked the question, who do you think is more influential? Across the board, without knowing any additional information, majority of the participants picked the men. While this is mainly due to societal stereotypes that operate at the subconscious level, there are certain tactics women can employ to help proactively address gender perceptions.

Paying attention to speech patterns

  • Women tend to speak faster than men and speaking at a fast pace conveys a sense of nervousness. It’s important to slow your speech down and many find it beneficial to practice this with a friend in a low-risk environment.
  • Women also tend to inflect when they speak, i.e. sentences rise in pitch at the end, sounding as if you are asking permission to make a point. It’s important to try and even out your speech so that you do not turn statements into questions unknowingly.
  • Relative to men, women ask more questions, which is good for flow and flexibility in conversations. Make sure to speak in statements clearly and definitively.
  • In general, speaking in a confident manner is also important in overcoming gender-power misconceptions.

Remember Your Sources of Power

  • When attending a meeting or making a presentation, there are multiple sources of power women can employ to convey authority. One primary source is information. In preparing, it’s important to know all of the relevant content as well as the relationships involved that may impact the situation.
  • Another source of power is status, i.e. education, degrees, or expertise in a particular area. Reaffirming our status helps overcome perceptions of gender inequalities.

Brain & Relationships

  • Brain research shows that women’s brains are wired to think more circuitously than those of men. This means, that in situations of difficulty or uncertainty, women are actually well positioned in thinking about creative options to help address challenges.
  • Research also shows that women tend to be very effective at forming and maintaining relationships. This can be source of advantage and an important element in achieving growth in an organization.

Today, it’s estimated that women hold fifty percent of all managerial and professional positions in the US. As women continue to strive and make gains in the workplace, it’s important to be aware of the subtleties that can impact how their abilities are perceived.