Many industries are still male-dominated, especially in the technology field.
You might be the only woman in the room during a meeting, conference, or event and, yes, this minority position can be awkward if you allow it to be.
I prefer to look at this situation as an opportunity to shine—for my own benefit and that of other women.
Here are some tips for meeting mastery when you are the female outlier.
- Be confident—even when you aren’t.
There’s a reason you’ve been included in this testosterone-heavy group. You’ve earned your spot here. Remind yourself of that before you walk in the room.
- Get a grip on your handshake.
No one likes a wimpy handshake. Grab that man’s hand and shake it with strength. I love it when a man gives me a weak grip and I return it with a solid one.
- Dress professionally.
Some women feel they have to dress like a man in this environment. Don’t. You’re not trying to emulate them, but rather communicate yourself as an individual. Choose professional, but not dull, clothing. Avoid too much jewelry and make-up, and over-the-top flamboyant styles that cause the other people in the room to focus on your appearance, instead of what you say.
- Become fluent in your body language.
Only 7% of your communication is verbal. Your body language says much more. Don’t fidget or toss your hair. Make strong eye contact, without staring. Keep your shoulders up to convey confidence.
- Don’t try to be one of the guys.
Why would you want to be? If you know about sports, cars, or other topics they’re discussing, jump in, but don’t attempt it if you’re not savvy enough to hold up your end—because they WILL want to test you. Instead, let them chatter a bit and then reign in the conversation to the important topic.
- Take ownership.
Women are nurturers, which means we don’t take credit, even when it’s due. You can be sure your male counterparts will engage in chest-thumping, so don’t be shy here. Acknowledge your achievements and those of your team, which reflect back on your leadership and skill.
- Never offer to take notes.
You’re a leader, not a stenographer. Take notes for your own benefit, not to record the meeting. Once you do that, you automatically cast yourself in a supporting role.
- Use fewer words.
Avoid lengthy discourses. Men can be under the misconception that women talk too much (I prefer to say that men listen too little). Use active, persuasive language, and pause for effect to accentuate key points. Do not wander off topic. Make your point and move on.
- Listen more than you speak.
Listening is a high-powered tool. When you make the effort to pay attention, you absorb a wealth of knowledge that others miss. You hear unspoken opportunities that you can jump on. You communicate your respect for the speaker. So, don’t interrupt or frame up your next thought while someone is talking to you. Stay focused.
- “B” assertive.
Finally, we all know that powerful, decisive, and commanding women can be tagged with the “B” word. It is synonymous with tough, which isn’t a bad thing. When you are confident, strategic, and professional, prepare yourself for the label. When you challenge others to move beyond their boundaries of thought and action, you might step on the toes of those who prefer things the way they are. As long as you are fair, can control your temper, and respect others, the “B” is not a scarlet letter but a badge of honor! Learn more about emotional intelligence (EQ) and leadership in the blog titled “Natural Born or Not, Step Up and Lead.’
The legendary Judy Garland said, “Be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
When you’re the only woman in the room, seize the opportunity to lead, inspire, and open minds.