Being You in 2015

New Year’s Resolution: Be true to yourself at work; you don’t need to be like a man.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘mistakes women make in the workplace’ and how we should all be ‘leaning in’ to make an impact. But before we lean in too far, let’s question what culture we’re being asked to lean in to. Do we have to play the male game in order to advance our careers?

In 2015 let’s stop apologising for who we are or how we do business and let’s celebrate our own individual styles and cultivate them. 

Have you ever confused putting yourself forward with being pushy? They really aren’t the same and we need to put ourselves forward, so people know who – and how brilliant – we are.

No-one’s saying banish all doubt and self-examination. Uncertainty can be a sign of emotional intelligence as well as wisdom. Yet what’s been happening with some of us is that we’ve felt that in order to compete with men, we need to somehow morph into men, becoming parodies of alpha male stereotypes. These stereotypes are legacies of the popularisation in the mid-19th Century of The Cult of True Womanhood. The ideal woman was to be an exemplar of Piety, Purity and Submissiveness. Yes, we’ve come some way since then but the equivalent male stereotypes linger longer and are harder to shift: some men still feel they should be the embodiment of Forcefulness, Competitiveness and Daring.

So let’s not throw out any babies out with the bathwater. A degree of diffidence is essential if we’re not to go bulldozing our way through life. Our tendency to be collaborative, to empathise, to be motivated by things other than profit, to forge relationships – these are all really valuable in the workplace. But let’s resolve not to let those traits incline us to keep a low profile in case we’re labelled ‘bossy’ and let’s not downplay our achievements or keep quiet when we have something to say. We need to think less about fitting into stale work cultures and more about changing those cultures at their core.

We don’t need to think, work, speak or dress like men to be good enough.

We need – all of us, men and women alike – to be honestly and authentically ourselves, so here are three resolutions you might want to consider:
  1. Ignore any advice to drop your voice lower in order to sound more authoritative – you won’t (you’ll just sound like you’ve got a cold or, worse, are coming on to someone.)
  2. Don’t think of work clothes as armour. Dress in ways that feel right for you.
  3. Celebrate difference – whether of gender, ethnicity or background – and let’s all bring ourselves to work.


Rosalind Adler and Lea Sellers

Media Skills for Women

[email protected]

+44 (0)7976 957719

Follow us on Twitter @speaking_women

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