Women’s Day Special: 6 Reasons Why Executive Presence For Women Is Important

I am going to start this post with a confession: when I sat down to write an update for the session on executive presence, I was kinda stuck. How do you write about a special session only for women and not sound biased! Why a session only for women? Doesn’t that imply that women are at a disadvantage?

But then I figured that men have the cultural and physical advantage of being noticed when they walk into a room. They are also encouraged to take charge and be in the forefront. It’s just the opposite for women – and not just in our country. We are conditioned to stand back, not be too assertive or speak about ourselves. The social perception of an assertive woman being bossy hasn’t done us any favours. The stereotype is mostly this:

Nice = pushover

Assertive = bossy

Peggy Klaus, the best selling author of Brag! The art of art of tooting your horn and not blowing it starts her book with the conditioning was given as a child. She was taught not to talk about herself even though she was one of the top students in her class. And that made it really hard for her when she started working. Standing back and not taking credit in a work environment is one of the big reasons why women tend to stay behind.

This Women’s Day when we are aiming for #BalanceForBetter and moving towards more gender parity, I feel that we need to train ourselves a little more in order to claim equal space with men in the boardroom.

According the official International Women’s Day website,

“Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage …”

One of the ways to aim at that parity is to develop executive presence. To be able to speak up and take up space like men do. To be able to sit at the table and discuss as equals. To have as many women in the room as there are men. To break the glass ceiling and make it right to the top. And if women need to crush some of the conditioning, I think we are ready for it. We just need to focus on things that will help us project ourselves in the right manner. 

If you want to empower women in your team through a session on executive presence, drop me a line here

There are so many reasons why executive presence is important for women to cultivate.

1. To create a strong personal brand: Let’s look at the beginning of one’s career. The way you behave, dress and carry yourself becomes associated with you. And that is what we call a personal brand. And the way you carry yourself matters every single work day and not just on departmental meetings or annual days.

2. Be visible in meetings: Research by Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law shows that women in business are still handed jobs like organising food, taking notes and making calls. Being involved in office housekeeping is taking away valuable opportunities from women. So entrenched is this bias that Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, chose to take the minutes of the meeting himself at a dinner meet in 2015. This is such a great gesture from an influential person to get the point across. 

And what better time than the year when we are striving for #BalanceForBetter to change perceptions. To change the way we work around men that clearly sends the message that both genders should be responsible for all the additional tasks. Developing executive presence will ensure that you don’t relegate yourself to a corner writing what others say. But choose to be as close to the action as possible.

On this topic, the article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Madam CEO., Get me a Coffee makes a great read. 

“Speak up. Believe in yourself. Take risks.” Sheryl Sandberg

3. Shirk self doubt: Sheryl Sandberg herself has accepted to being reluctant to speak in meetings. Most meetings have men in the majority and that can be intimidating for women. To counter this, women tend to qualify what they want to say with phrases like – I think, I feel, I might be wrong but – and that undermines the ideas that come after that. 

Using body language that takes up space and the ability to speak up clearly and assertively is an important part of executive presence.

If you want to empower women in your team through a session on executive presence, drop me a line here

4. Become more assertive: As I said, assertive women are conveniently termed bossy. But carrying yourself with presence at all times will ensure that people take you seriously and not pass you off as bossy. Your overall image of being authoritative and yet approachable. Effective communication skills have a lot to do with that. 

Learn more about how to be assertive and yet respectful here

5. Claim promotions to leadership positions: Research shows that the percentage of women in senior leadership is still very low. It is hard for women to break the glass ceiling beyond a point. Women are generally taken to be nice and expected to be nice. But senior positions require emotional competence to take on leadership roles, be willing to take risks and handle confrontational situations at work. And for some reason those qualities are considered masculine and men naturally fit the bill. 

Projecting a powerful image through executive presence makes you ready for leadership roles and decision makers can see that too. 

6. Inspire/mentor other women: One of the best ways to ensure we have parity at the workplace is to ensure that women support other women. Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club is one such movement. If you are in a position of power, you can mentor younger women to develop their positive brand and and move up to leadership positions. But for that women need to become more assertive and project presence. 

A great first step towards #BalanceForBetter is to develop ourselves as women to become more equal partners at work. As a small step towards this goal, Soft Skills Studio presents executive presence for women all year round because the challenge of being a woman at the workplace doesn’t end with 8th March! This session brings you the important features of executive presence and how to become more confident.

By the end of the session, you’ll be able to:

– Understand what exactly is executive presence

– Create your own personal brand plan

– Learn how to use the power of power pose

– How communicate with confidence

If you want to empower women in your team through a session on executive presence, drop me a line here

If you have any questions, you can comment below or email me on sumankher@sumankher.com.

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