Why Second guessing themselves becomes second nature to women executives – and what can be done about it. Research has found that women executives spend over 25% of their time trying to “stay on track” and use a checking mechanism to ensure that they stay in the safe zone and leave no room of wrong assumptions and interpretations. This is valuable time lost that could have been used more productively.
Ever worn a great new outfit to work and had someone ask “so who is the guy you are trying to impress” or had to deal with snide remarks/ stares for friendly banter exchanged with a male colleague? Ever wondered and worried if something you said or did would be misconstrued too quickly as being “ flirty” or “too forward” ? Or worried about gossip that can be fuelled from working long hours on a new project with a male colleague?
While office gossip is inevitable, do women spend more time than warranted on second guessing themselves and managing perceptions? Short Answer : Yes.
Should women executives really have to think twice before shutting the door when they need to have a conversation with a male colleague on a sensitive issue? Should they dress down to seem less “in your face”? Should they carefully choose their words, outfits and demeanour so that basic interactions are not misconstructed? Short answer: No
Research has found that women executives spend over 25% of their time trying to “stay on track” and use a checking mechanism to ensure that they stay in the safe zone and leave no room of wrong assumptions and interpretations. This is valuable time lost that could have been used more productively.
More importantly, this checking mechanism grows into a habit for most women and impedes self expression and consequently individual growth. This also creeps into other realms of the work life and lowers productivity and work quality. In short: second guessing equals short changing ourselves!
While we may have no control over the mindsets of most individuals (male and female ) and their perceptions, women executives can control their own reactions and how they approach such unstated and underlying sexualisation of women. The best reaction would be to not react: to remain unaffected and focus on results and work quality. Not reacting saves you time, teaches you resilience. Most of all, not reacting and being unaffected also takes the fun away of targeting you. Given that humans are wired to not do the things that are no fun, this could be an effective strategy.
We must also ensure that we do not fall prey to judging other women and propagating mindsets that we would not like to be at the receiving end of. Given that the ratio of women in the work force is surging and trends northwards, women executives would do well utilize this 25% of their time to hone their leadership skills and advance their careers.