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BossWoman eNews – March 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives

Welcome to the March 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Act Like a Woman Not a Girl
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. Act Like a Woman Not a Girl
“Don’t let ‘em treat you like a girl.” That was the advice LeRoy Weber gave to his daughter Liz Weber when she told him she was going to shop for her first car. He was acknowledging the inherent sexism in commercial interactions where women are assumed to be naïve and lacking in power. He was reminding her that she was a smart consumer who knew how to do her homework, negotiate, and hold her ground.

Now years later Liz Weber is a consultant and professional speaker who has written a book entitled, “Don’t Let “Em Treat You Like a Girl: A Woman’s Guide to Leadership Success.” Liz asked professional colleagues, men as well as women, to give their best tips on how women can use their personal power in their leadership roles. Liz’s concepts really resonate with me since I have often spoken and written about how women throw away their power and then expect others to “empower them.” Liz goes a step further and exhorts her readers to stop acting “girly” by dressing provocatively, giggling, flirting, and using gender as an excuse with statement such as “I’ve changed my mind. It’s a woman’s prerogative.”

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby
During March we celebrate national Women’s History Month – time to reflect a bit on the history of women in America. I grew up in the era where calling a female person a woman was considered an insult. The term “woman” was reserved for the elderly (as in “that older woman down the street”), the size challenged (as in “the women’s sizes are in that section), or a low class person (as in “the cleaning woman”). Other females were either “girls” or, if they had money and wore white gloves, “ladies.”

For younger readers, it may be hard to imagine that being called a girl was supposed to be a complement (as in “His wife and the other girls from the office are going out tonight”). In reality “girl” could also be a derogatory term implying a put down of class or rank (as in “Have your girl call my girl to set up an appointment,” or “she is just a shop girl”). In other words female people didn’t have a cool term to refer to themselves. By the way the term, “female,” wasn’t anything you would want to be called because it usually implied something gynecological (as in “She had (shush) female surgery”). When I taught what I think may have been the first women’s studies psychology class in the country in 1970, my male university colleagues referred to the course as “Female Problems.” It was definitely not meant as a complement.

In my youth I decided the best alternative to the lack of self-esteem promoting terms would be to think of myself as a lady. I didn’t have any money or come from money so I wore white gloves everywhere and plotted ways to make money. White gloves were very practical in a gritty city prior to the days of pollution control. I wore a clean pair of white gloves when I rode public transportation to my summer jobs downtown. The gloves were filthy by the end of the rides home. On dates, I wore white gloves. The Ice Princess image might have scared off a few hand holders but when I took off my gloves it meant I really wanted to hold hands with that special someone. My college years were spent at a university that had gone co-ed just 10 years earlier and the faculty had not quite figured out what to do with us girls, uh-er, women, uh-er females. So our teachers addressed classes with “Men, this semester we will be covering…” A supreme teacher complement on a philosophy paper was “You think like a man.”

We’ve come a long way. Now we can be women and be proud of it. We might still refer to ourselves as girls (as in “Just the girls from the office are going golfing”) but it is more sociable and affectionate and not insulting. However, we still have a long way to go. Sometimes professional women act “girly” and throw away their power and then get insulted when they are treated as powerless. Here are some behaviors that throw away our power and some recommendations:

  • Dressing in feminine, provocative manner in the workplace. Liz Weber suggests saving the cleavage and ruffles for parties and dates. In the workplace, dress for your work. Wear attractive but non-fussy clothes that fit what you do, suits for office work, jeans on the construction site. I know many women business owners in non-traditional fields such as construction and environmental waste who need to dress in clothes that allow freedom of movement to climb around a worksite.
  • Using a “girly” voice that whines, has a high pitch, or structures that researcher Dr. Deborah Tannen calls “qualifiers” such as “kinda” “sorta” “justa.” Instead use your woman voice. Ask for what you want instead of whining. Use the lower range of your voice by learning to breathe and project appropriate volume. Offer ideas in meetings without hesitancy. Interrupt. Yes, interrupting can be rude but I heard former cabinet member Madeline Albright recommends that her women students learn to interrupt. Since men interrupt more than women, one way women can be heard better in mixed groups is to strategically and appropriately interrupt to get their ideas out there. If you snooze you lose; if you wait politely, you don’t get heard. (P.S. This one is still hard for me.)
  • Misusing your body by tossing your hair, fiddling with your jewelry or clothes, and other gestures that call attention to your sexuality. Liz Weber suggests using your body to represent yourself. -Pull up to your full height. Stand with good posture, neither stiff nor slumped. -Make eye contact. Even Princess Di stopped peaking out from her bangs as she matured. -Shake hands with your whole hands not just the finger tips. Greet, don’t crush. Hand shaking is an ancient greeting ritual that shows the stranger you are meeting that you are not carrying weapons in your hand. Finger tip shakes come across as sneaky or hesitant.
Increasing Confidence
The most common goal I hear from coaching clients is that they want to increase their self confidence. I often ask them about sports they have never played and ask if they are confident about playing them. “Of course not. How could be confident about something I know nothing about?” they reply. “Then why would you expect to be confident about your new job or about parenting a teenager if you have never done it before?”

There are two kinds of confidence, specific and general confidence. Specific confidence comes only through getting good at something. To gain specific confidence you must do the skill and get feedback that you are improving. If you practice the wrong thing you will only get better at doing it wrong. Feedback makes the difference between 30 years of lived experience and one year lived thirty times. Confidence follows experience. To expect the opposite is psychosis. You will be exhibiting a delusion of grandeur when you say you can do something you have never done. Expect to be tentative until you get good at the new skill.

On the other hand there is another kind of confidence that is more general. Liz Weber refers to this kind of confidence as a “can do” attitude that expresses openness about taking risks and a willingness to learn. This attitude does not presume knowledge or experience that doesn’t exist but does presume that you have learned other skills through dedication and hard work and that you are willing to repeat that process with a new skill. General confidence results when you generalize your life experiences and apply them to new situations. It comes across with some of the voice and body tips listed above. Everyone, even women starting out in careers, have life experiences to draw upon. Past lessons from family, school, sports, and other job experiences have transferable skills. For example, women who have spent some time away from paid employment to raise children can transfer home management skills to other work. My mother used to refer to herself during her home-with-children years as a “domestic engineer.” Comedian Rosanne Barr uses the term “domestic goddess.”

Living Your Power
What if you already felt powerful, what would you be doing? What if you were 10 times more powerful, what would you do then? In case you can’t think of any ideas, I have some suggestions.

Use circles-of-influence power.

  • When you need to get something done, who can best do it? Hint: maybe not you but someone you know or someone who knows someone. *Keep in touch with not only friends but with acquaintances. Ask them what is going on in their ives and how you might help. Tell them what you are up to and ask for help. When Madeline Albright was the U.S. representative to the United Nations, she started an small informal group made up of all women representatives from other countries. They vowed to always take each other’s phone calls. As she and the other women rose in power in their governments, international work got done outside of the normal hierarchical channels through those phone calls.
Use language power.
  • Learn the technical lingo in the cultures you are part of. If your doctor prescribes medicine, ask the name, the generic name and what it is being prescribed for. If you take your car in for repairs learn the main names of the “thingy in the front that make that clump, clump noise.”
  • Say thank you when someone complements you. Don’t insult their taste by arguing about whether or not you did a good job.*Get to the point. If you are giving a report, write out the main points. Even if you don’t use your notes, the exercise will tune up your brain so that you don’t ramble and waste everybody’s time.
  • Be concise unless you are explaining something complicated. One of the most annoying woman I ever met used to ask, “Do you know what I mean?” at the end of every sentence. Everyone wanted to scream, “Yes, we know what you mean, get on with it.”
  • Eliminate fillers unless you want to sound like a Valley Girl. I’m referring to these annoyances: “like” (as in “I said, like, so what do you want to do?”) “right” (as in “So he drove down the street, right, and then he…) “you know?” (as in “So he drove down the street, you know, and then he…) and my all time favorite, “goes,” (as in “So I goes, ‘Do you want to have coffee?’ and she goes ‘Well I guess so.’”)
Use money power. You’re not a girl anymore if you own a credit card and pay the bill.
  • Ask for and earn what you are worth. Two of my coaching clients are earning 20-35% more this year because they asked for what they were worth. Neither would have done so without the support of coaching.
  • Own your money by making a spending and savings plan based on your values. Revise as needed. Hire experts to help you if you don’t know how to do this.
  • Give some money away even if you think you can’t afford to. You will influence social causes that matter to you and send out the confident energy that you are a woman of means. Adjust your tithes and contributions as your circumstances and values change.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that “Telling people you are powerful is like telling them you are a lady. If you have to tell, you aren’t.”

Just in case, I still have my white gloves.

If you don’t want to be treated like a girl, act like a woman.
Happy Women’s History Month!
Susan Robison

Liz Weber. “Don’t Let ‘Em Treat You Like a Girl: A Woman’s Guide to Leadership Success” Available from the distributor at http://www.DontLetEmTreatYouLikeAGirl.com as well as from Liz's office, Weber Business Service, LLC, at http://www.wbsllc.com or 717-597-8890.

2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
Topic: Permanent Whitewater: Dealing with Change and Transitions
Date: March 29, 2005, Part of an all day conference for women in federal government

Topic: Working Successfully with Couple Clients: Staying Sane in Insane Places.
Date: May 12, 2005 Part of the Education Conference for the Maryland state association of Financial Planners.

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