Tell me how I, as a female in the corporate world, can gain respect from males in my industry.

It’s almost like I have two strikes against me in addition to being female: I work in the construction industry, and my education and role is in Environment (everyone hates Environment :wink: ) Oh, and I’m young as well - 29.

I participated in a meeting all day today (we will reconvene tomorrow bright and early) where I was the lone female in a room of about 15 senior level management types (VPs and General Manager types) and I seriously struggled with how I should behave, what I should say, should I put my neck out with an outside-of-the-box suggestion? In an ideal world, we are all equal, but in all honesty, we just aren’t there yet.

So, how do I behave and what do I do to gain their respect? I really want to get my foot in the door here (I’ve been with the company for 8 months) and move up the ladder rapidly. So far I’ve taken on loads of extra work and produced some pretty exceptional documents, and my role has evolved positively in the past few months, but I still feel like I’m not taken seriously.

Speaking with my father earlier tonight he bluntly stated that women prove themselves by being very smart - not just in respect to their role within the company, but in general. He said that often men can get away with being a bit dim as long as they have a good personality or other redeeming quality, but women certainly can’t get ahead by giggling or telling off-colour jokes, they have to be SMART.

Opinions and experiences from both sexes welcome.

Female here, not much older than you (35),same industry, same city (I think that you’re in Calgary if I remember correctly)

My model in this regard is my mom. She went from small town girl with a basic education to retiring this year as a VP of finance for a major construction firm. Yes, she worked hard (years of night school, long hours at the office), but I think that the key to her success was NOT making the common assumption that she had to be the toughest thing around. She was herself all the way, never being afraid to joke around, not suppressing her bubbly personality and not trying to, for lack of a better term, “Butch up”. I’ve worked in the same industry, sometimes at the same company, and we’ve seen many women who think that the key to success is to act in some bizarre ideal of masculinity. It doesn’t work, they look ridiculous, and no one respects someone who’s obviously putting on an act.

Are you sure that you’re really not being respected? Are you reading more into things because you’re still feeling unsure in your new role? Are the men in your meeting all lifelong construction types, maybe in their 50’s? I find that those guys tend to be non-chatty, “time is money” types who don’t have a lot of time for getting to know you. Maybe what reads as disregard or disrespect to you is simply the fact that as far as they’re concerned, they found out what they need to know and don’t need to continue with the chit-chat.

I know it seems hard to someone who’s very ambitious and wants to climb the ladder (and I truly think that’s awesome, I cheer on women with so much drive, sister! :slight_smile: ) but it’s only been 8 months! From others I’ve seen, it takes time. Time to get a feel for the personal dynamics, for the up and down cycles of the economy, time to build relationships in this somewhat clannish industry ;).

I guess my rambling point is that going full bore trying to change who you are in order to be “taken more seriously” doesn’t work. Smart, driven young women who have something to prove are a dime a dozen, and I’ve seen many come and go. There’s only ONE of you, and you need to think about what really sets you apart. Cultivate the hell out of that talent, and people will know it soon enough through your serious, consistent, kick ass work.

Just be yourself and don’t waste energy worrying about how others see you or feel about you. The only thing you can control is your own actions. Make them live up to your values as an employee and person and that will do.

Stop saying things like ‘I, as a female in the corporate world.’

Act like your balls are just as big as theirs, and that doesn’t mean putting on an act.

Taking on extra work and being the model employee doesn’t make you an equal, it makes you a doormat. Take yourself seriously, be confident and they’ll respect you in the end.

Just do your job efficiently and professionally. That’s all it’s ever taken for anyone to earn my respect in the office, male or female.

Why are you labeling yourself as female first and foremost?

Do your work right without wondering whether you’re being “too girly” or “not girly enough.” I’ve seen engineers and techies of both genders lose people’s respect for showing a lack of balls or a lack of brain, but never for being girly.

I hope this does not come across as being overly critical, but you may be seeing problems that do not exist and quite possibly have unrealistic expectations.

Does this mean you are also senior level management? Unless you were taking minutes and serving coffee, it sounds as if you are being taken seriously if you are invited to such meetings. Perhaps it would help to stop thinking of yourself as a female first and a manager second. Think of yourself as a manager who happens to be female.

Do you know what the phrase “foot in the door” means? After eight months, I suspect significantly more than your foot has gone through the doorway. :slight_smile:

Why? If your role has “evolved positively”, it sounds as if you are being taken seriously. Do you expect to be President after eight months?

Sleep with the boss.

What? Someone had to say it.

The key to gaining respect from males at work is to do your job well. There is no secret, you earn respect the same way everyone else does.

I think the deeper problem the OP might be having is how to behave socially in a world of men. Social skills aren’t everything, but they are a big part of the equation to success in the corporate world. Should a woman transform herself into a manish pantsuit wearing asexual being, or can she keep wearing skirts?

If the OP were the only black male in the room, then the answer would be easy. To fit in he would just have to behave like everyone else. Look no further than Obama and how deftly he uses the word “folks”.

But for a woman I guess this could present a challenge. Generally speaking, some of the things that men do, women can’t do without losing some respect.

I don’t know a lot of women who have turned themselves into the female version of George Clooney. Women don’t have many role models to emulate, so they are often just creating a professional personality from scratch. Guys have it easier since they know what they must do. They see it all around them, from the men at work, and all over pop culture.

The best advice I can offer is that even if you don’t learn how to handle your social situation, you can still always rely on your professional skills.

I’m afraid this might be the most effective course of action. If you look at which female politicians and world leaders there have been, you’ll see that most of them have done so by being hrader and more bad ass than their male counter parts (ultimate example is of course Maggie Thatcher). Being extremely ‘masculine’ i.e. competative, merciless, etc. shows the others your not some girly tree hugger (especially given the environmentalist thing).

I am not saying you should do this, but it might be the best way to get on equal footing.

Be professional and be yourself. It’s a tough lesson and can take decades to master. Seriously.

As a guy, 2 things that some women do in the workplace that really make me take them not seriously. IMHO of course.

  1. Don’t set out to prove your dick is bigger than mine. With all due respect Discipline, this is a giant sign of inferiority. It’s playing “I’m the manager and you’re the peon” card.

  2. Don’t play the sex kitten act. You want me to take you seriously as an equal and be gender blind, then dress professionally. Act professionally. This is really hard to explain but there is a not so fine line between dressing professionally and skanky, and it varies by industry. I could care less if you get a tramp stamp, but you don’t need to be showing it off in the office. Again, it’s a fine, ill defined line. However, IMHO if you want me to take you seriously, then don’t perpetuate a sex kitten stereotype.

Just my 2 cents

I don’t think that’s what Discipline was saying.

Even if someone has no problem with female engineers, they’re not going to like you if you assume, through no fault of their own, that they’re not treating you fairly. So unless you’ve got something more concrete than a feeling that you’re not being taken seriously, just forget about overcoming their prejudice and assume you already have.

China Guy’s words are Gold. Don’t use your boobs as a weapon. You’re not a Pharmaceutical Rep.

Interesting topic,

I’m 46, Male, South/Southwesterner (USA) former Military

Old Fashioned some times, but try to not be “set in my ways” I grew up in a family where the girls washed dishes and the boys did the yard work … yeah … THAT kinda thing.

In Bootcamp our base Commander was a Woman (circa 1984). Since then I’ve had several women bosses through the years. I can just say that when they knew that I didn’t give a $h|t about gender in the work place, that I focused on results and teamwork, they loved it, and when they were part of the solution and not part of the problem … everything was GREAT. (Some men are part of the problem too by the way). If you just do your part … that goes a long way.
SHOW your competence. LEAD by example, and yeah acting like one of the guys sometimes helps, but that depends on what kind of job you have. Most men by now should really be use to this, and WE men better get ready (if not already) Women are getting employed more than men (in the USA) these days, and the trend doesn’t show signs of changing … fact is … more and more women will be doing jobs traditionally thought of as male dominated jobs … that includes LEADERSHIP positions. It’s just a fact. I have had little to no problem working with women who were my boss. Just my 2 cents worth … hope this helps somehow (I’m a father of 2 boys and 2 girls … and my girls seem to be smarter than the boys). (My oldest daughter likes to dress as a girl and play like a boy … hahaha I think she will be very successful in life).

I think you need to just take a deep breath, get over yourself, and just do your job like a normal person. No one (well, hardly anyone) gives a shit about you being a woman, so you shouldn’t either. The whole paradigm of “female in the corporate world trying to gain respect from males in a male-dominated industry” exists in your head only. Hardly any of the guys you work with give a shit whether you were male or female. You are just a co-worker to your co-workers, just like all your other co-workers.

Men also struggle with how to behave in a meeting. A penis does not come with the magical ability to know when to stick one’s neck out and when to shut up in a meeting.

Says you. Attitudes like yours are part of the problem. You simply have this belief that “it’s tough for a young woman in the corporate world,” but that belief may or not be true if you were to look at the objective evidence. So, your belief that inequality exists may be all that is supporting your belief that inequality exists.

Just behave like a normal person. Forget all this “I’m a young female in construction so I’ve gotta work twice as hard and convince them I’m smart or they won’t respect me.” That isn’t true. You are just a co-worker to them, you aren’t a young female co-worker. Do your job well (which is to say just as well as a man would–no need to be better or smarter) and you’ll be fine.

There are lots of possible reasons for the fact that you feel you are not taken seriously besides the fact that you have boobs. Maybe the people you work with don’t take any younger people seriously. Maybe you are just misinterpreting them being busy and thinking about other things as “not taking you seriously.” Maybe there is nothing they could do that would convince you that they are taking you seriously because you havea huge chip on your shoulder and will always believe they are not taking you seriously. Maybe you aren’t very smart and your work sucks.

Your dad is wrong–that is how PEOPLE prove themselves.

So you’re in a meeting with fifteen other people, all of whom a) are substantially older that you, b) have substantially more experience than you, c) have substantially more senority at the company than you, d) have substantially more managerial responsibility than you, and e) are men.

First of all, what makes you think they don’t respect you (or don’t respect you enough)? Second of all, why do you feel they don’t respect you (enough) solely because you’re a woman and not the other differences?

And, finally, although I don’t think you’re getting bad advice in this thread, I’m not sure that you’re getting the most pertinent advice. I suggest you should rephrase your question into two parts. First part: EmAnJ’s meeting with a bunch of senior level management types at her company. Given that EmAnJ’s relatively new to the company and wants to make a good impression, how should EmAnJ act? Second part: By the way, EmAnJ’s a woman. Should she act any differently than a man would in the same circumstance?

Mine did. Unfortunately it spends all its time thinking about other things.

Men don’t get ahead by giggling and making off color jokes either. But at the same time, a stick up your butt doesn’t make you likable - and likable is as important as competent in getting respect. Don’t be afraid to be human. Don’t even be afraid to be a human female.

And remember you are YOUNG. At 29 no one took me seriously either - because I was young and looked younger. Patience is part of the game. So is the willingness to move if what you want to do is climb the ladder and a better opportunity comes up.

My father was a construction executive who mentored many women through roles into architect, project manager, etc. At his funeral, one of the women talked about the fist time she was on a site in her new role. She was a little afraid to climb a ladder on the ironwork, but he encouraged her and she found it wasn’t as hard as she thought. She used that as a metaphor for work in general.

Respect is earned. Do your job competantly. Show respect to others and demand nothing less for yourself. Stop thinking of your gender as a handicap. It’s just part of who you are, like the size of your feet.


What everyone else said. Just do your job and be on the mark and proactive. You do need to be confident about your opinions. Be yourself, trying to be man behaviorally, just looks stupid and rarely works.

Having said this there is one pitfall that young professional women tend to fall into and that is dressing appropriately. Sexist or not when professional women start showing too much cleavage or leg they are not taken as seriously in many professions. Not that men won’t be appreciative, but it’s not likely to get you up the corporate ladder any faster and will not earn you the respect of the (still mainly female) assistants and gatekeepers in many professional offices which can be a serious impediment to advancing.