How dare you sit at the table!

I walked into the conference room about 5 minutes before the meeting time. There were several guys already in the room chatting. I sat down at the table and said hi to a few that I knew. Several of the men in the room were giving me a side-eye look, obviously wondering why I dared to sit at the table. This was outside their experience for these weekly meetings. The women who attended sat in the back, along the wall and took notes. They didn’t sit at the “big boy” table. Wrong! As QA Manager had some items they needed to hear, and I was not sitting in the back. I belonged at the table just like they did. Once I was introduced and some of the senior men on my team deferred to me, attitudes changed, albeit slowly.

The reality was I was 25 years into my career and really didn’t care what the men in the room thought of me being in my role. I knew what I brought to the table and was comfortable with it. Honestly, it was kind of fun making some of them squirm.

It’s sad that women are still getting the odd look when they sit down at the table in a meeting. Even worse is when we speak up to challenge a man’s opinion and they want to talk to “the expert” who they assume is a man. While it’s satisfying to state “I’m the expert”, it gets old fast. It’s time that we stop worrying about gender, race, age, and all those other characteristics that have nothing to do with experience, knowledge, skill, and ability.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg was vocal about women belonging were the decisions are made. We need to start being more vocal about our right to be at that table. If a man in your job would be sitting at the table, you should be there. Take the seat. You might get a few strange looks, but that’s okay. Remember you were hired to do a job and you have an obligation to do it. That means you may go against the grain, but it’s the grain that is wrong not you.

Early in my career people would give me grief about being a woman in a male dominated career and make snarky comments about “women engineers”. I reminded more than a few that I was hired as an engineer not a female engineer. My job description was gender neutral, so I planned to do the job as needed. If they had a problem with working with a woman, that was on them.

If you are struggling with having the confidence to take that seat at the table because of the subtle hostility from others, know that you can grow your confidence and build your credibility so the point where people want to hear your ideas, thoughts and respect your contributions.

Join me for a 4-week ecourse, Be Brilliant & Be Heard, even when you are the only woman in the group. You will learn how to assertively communicate, gain confidence in your ability to share ideas, quiet the inner critic, defeat imposter syndrome, and how to respond instead of reacting. As your confidence grows your credibility will increase and you will be heard. Registration closes for 2020 at midnight Saturday (PDT). Register now!


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