By: Maret Montanari
I used to take the seat at the back of all my meetings — I never felt comfortable in another location, even if I was the first to arrive. While it seems like a small action, it can be a significant one. You see, the physical gap I put between myself and those leading the meeting directly correlated to the gap in confidence between not only my male coworkers and me, but my female ones as well.
Channeling confidence runs deeper than what seat I choose to occupy, but it sparked a domino effect of not viewing myself as a worthy enough professional and caused me to lose sight of the power of advocating for myself. I disregarded my successful track record, which manifested a perception causing me to question nearly every task I performed and every idea I wanted to voice in the workplace. An inner monologue of, “Am I doing this right?” or “No, that’s probably not a good idea.” ran circles through my head day in and day out.
When a female mentor gifted me “Lean in for Graduates” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg a year and a half ago, the realization dawned on me — I can’t expect my coworkers to recognize me as capable or even vouch for my abilities if I am the first to deem myself inferior. Ironically, it was a humbling experience, putting into perspective how I had developed many of the bad habits Sandberg’s book shared.
In most instances, it takes mindfulness to alter how we view ourselves in the workplace environment. Sandberg spoke to how our life course should be determined by reaching for what’s challenging and hard, including jobs we may not currently qualify for but have the ability to become qualified for through hard work.
Now, rather than relegating myself to the back seat at a meeting, I move up if it’s appropriate. Rather than saying “sorry” when I don’t immediately respond to a work-related question or ask due to being focused on another project, I say “thank you for your patience.” Rather than waiting to volunteer for a project in case one of my more senior coworkers wanted it, I immediately raise my hand for consideration. Rather than shying away from praise from my coworkers or clients by diverting the attention to another topic, I take a moment to share my appreciation for their words. Rather than hesitating to share my leadership desires as a young professional, I voice it to decision makers when given the appropriate opportunity.
These are all small, simple actions, but they empower me to build and command my own confidence in the workplace, and ultimately, they allow me to advocate for myself. This kind of confidence isn’t born overnight, but you can start building the foundation today.
It’s no secret women, especially in the public relations industry, had to fight for a seat at the table, and if you want to ensure we remain there, before you choose your seat, remember it takes an empowered woman to empower women.