Friday, March 11th, 2016 | 7 min read
It’s not often that a group of driven, career-focused women working in social come together to have a very real, honest conversation about women in the workplace. No obtuse statements, no sugar coating, no fake positivity—just five mics, a little wine, and a large dose of candor.
This was the spirit of Sprinklr’s Women of Enterprise Event on the eve of SXSWi 2016. Jackie Huba, author and TEDx keynote speaker; Alison Herzog, Marketing Director at Dell; Lisa Grimm, Social Media Lead for Whole Foods; and Elizabeth Jurewicz, Social Enablement Strategist at Rackspace participated in an informal Q&A with Sprinklr Global Evangelist Ekaterina Walter, discussing everything from strengthening your inner voice to impostor syndrome, showing your work, and cultivating positive relationships with female colleagues.
Here are four important lessons from the talk.
Confidence is key to success in the workplace, and it’s also one of the hardest qualities for women to cultivate. In a 2011 survey, 50% of female respondents reported self-doubt about their job performance and careers, compared with just 31% of male respondents.
At the Women of Enterprise event, Elizabeth Jurewicz said that confidence comes from reframing how you talk to yourself; your inner voice must be strong and positive.
When you find yourself in a fearful moment, Lisa Grimm suggests recalling past situations that seemed impossible to get through and asking yourself: did you survive? The answer is always a resounding “yes,” so why will this time be any different?
Jackie Huba pointed out that we each adopt a persona every day the second we put on clothing; we have a work persona, a friend persona, a family persona, and so on. Since we’re already inventing and re-inventing our personas on a daily basis, why not create a persona shaped by power and confidence?
Impostor syndrome is that inner voice that creeps up, often at the worst time, and tells you, “You’re not qualified for this. You’re not good enough to pull this off.” It’s the feeling that, no matter how ambitious, accomplished, or capable you are, you’re not qualified to do the job you’ve been hired to do, and sooner or later the world will notice.
The Women of Enterprise event showed that many women suffer from imposter syndrome, no matter how successful they are; women with years of experience and deep knowledge of their field stood up and admitted to feeling like they don’t deserve their success.
Jackie Huba likes to call this inner voice Felicia, which means you get to say “Bye, Felicia” when you kick it to the curb.
— CNBC Make It (@CNBCMakeIt) March 11, 2016
We’ve all been there. You have an amazing idea, and you tell a colleague about it one afternoon in a meeting. A few weeks later, that colleague pitches your idea as their own. You feel resentful, frustrated, and discouraged, and more than a little annoyed with yourself for not protecting your idea.
So, how do you stop this from happening? Alison Herzog from Dell suggests saying something like this:
“I remember having that discussion a month ago. I’m so glad you decided to incorporate my ideas.”
This allows you to acknowledge that the idea came from you without embarrassing the person who tried to appropriate it. It’s both assertive and conciliatory. It shows that you won’t let someone walk all over you, but it also lets your peer keep his or her dignity.
Meanwhile, Ekaterina said that you should put your name on all of your work––on every slide of your presentations and on any professional document you make public. Women might worry that this makes them seem aggressive or boastful, but it’s essential to showing your work and getting recognition from your peers and supervisors.
How many times do you say “I’m sorry” each day? Probably a lot more than you think. The New York Times points out that, as we grow older, “sorry” becomes an entry point to basic affirmative sentences; we say it even when there’s no need for an apology, often as a way to buffer a request or an assertion.
And it’s proven that women apologize more than men, and the speakers at Women of Enterprise urged women to stop saying “I’m sorry.” If you’re doing something for the right reasons, with the right intentions, there’s no need to apologize, they said.
“Don’t worry if you’re a force to be reckoned with. We need forces to be reckoned with.” — Alison Herzog, Dell
You’re not going to wake up one day and do all of this perfectly. You won’t magically develop a 100%-positive inner voice and you won’t always feel like you belong in your career. You’re going to make mistakes in the way you present your ideas that mean others take credit for them, and you’re going to start an email or two with “I’m sorry.”
Improving in these areas requires consistent practice over many years, but panels like Women of Enterprise show that each one of your female peers struggles with these issues, just like you do. No matter how confident or accomplished they may seem, they sometimes feel like an imposter, and they battle with their inner Felicia every day.
Knowing this, how can you make sure that your interactions with your women peers stay productive, positive, and helpful? How can you spend more time building each other up?
About the Author: Ekaterina Walter is a business and marketing innovator, international speaker, author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg and co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand.