So far, society might think that women in the workplace are finally gaining the right to be what has long been dissuaded: themselves. However, it can be difficult for women to be authentic in the workplace, especially if they are just starting out. research shows In male-dominated environments, women often feel pressured to conform to long-held cultural norms and gender stereotypes, and to conceal their identities in order to succeed.
Gender bias is particularly pronounced in the tech field, which has long been considered inappropriate for women. The study found A hostile environment and a sense of isolation often drive female middle managers out of the tech industry. In fact, more than 50% of women quit the industry mid-career.
Consider what happened early in her career Amy Weaver, President and Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce. She was preparing to chair a meeting involving difficult negotiations. A man she considers a friend and mentor pulls her aside and advises her not to be too nice and just make the laws. Amy realized he was describing what he would do and what would work for him. But she knew it would be insincere if she went in and scolded and slapped the table. Fortunately, she’s confident enough in her ability to relate to people that she rejects his advice and actually “acts like a man.” She stayed true to her style and won.
These questions inspired me to conduct several interviews to explore whether and, if so, how female leaders in tech can be true to themselves. I also gained insight into why the field has largely failed to attract and retain women in leadership positions.
My biggest takeaway is that authenticity is a skill that develops with time and experience, and women can indeed succeed by being themselves.
I conducted one-on-one interviews with nine female senior leaders at six technology companies to analyze how they perceive and confront the ongoing challenge of being a true leader.Eight of the women had been in Fortune 500 company. They have worked in the technology industry for an average of 26 years. Respondents ranged from one chief executive and six vice presidents to one managing director and one global director.
To that end, I’ve found that women can “practice” authenticity, as ironic and oxymoronic as that may sound. Surely you can’t practice authenticity any more than you can practice spontaneity? However, study participants revealed that personal authenticity is an ability they have developed over time. Still, it takes practice, patience, and persistence. The more women leaders know about themselves and stay true to what they value in life, the more authentic they become.
Being authentic is a balancing act. Being a successful leader requires having enough emotional intelligence to understand not only yourself but also your audience, because only then can you adapt to a given situation without compromising authenticity. The women I spoke to said they showed this adaptability, largely through the skill of tailoring their communications to their audience.
In fact, the women reported that they had different versions of reality, and that by using their emotional intelligence, they knew how and when to come up with the version that best suited the situation. True authenticity requires embracing your professional self as well as your personal self, and recognizing that these identities can and should co-exist. Integrating these identities creates authenticity and connection to others.
The nine female leaders I studied all left their companies because they felt they couldn’t be authentic. But most said they were able to be themselves for now. This is because they know themselves better now, they know what they value and believe in at work, and they are free to say and do what they want, at least for the most part.
As it turns out, being female can have advantages in the male-dominated tech industry. The women I spoke to expressed a strong belief that it helps them stand out in the workplace, especially if they can leverage their unique strengths. Admittedly, some women feel the need to play down stereotypes about women, such as being too emotional or too talkative. However, eight out of nine respondents said they were able to succeed by being themselves and expressing their thoughts and opinions freely.
exist Be more collaborative and empathetic Commanding and authoritarian are probably the most powerful superpowers women can harness. The more authentic a woman is at work—the more she can acquire and keep it—the more likely she will thrive as a leader in the long run.
Samantha Dewalt is Managing Director of Lehigh@NasdaqCenter, an exclusive education industry partnership between Lehigh University and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco.
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