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Why Women Aren't Perceived as Powerful (at work)

Elizabeth Lions

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Every woman may know the feeling of being overlooked or run over in a meeting. No one likes it. Especially executive women.

Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 7,000 people, including female executives at or above the Vice President level. The consistent feedback was that the women feel less acknowledged during meetings. While men agreed with this opinion, they disagreed with why women didn't feel powerful.

Apparently, there is this thing called the "meeting before the meeting," and women in executive positions hardly know this goes on. Men do. In fact, men have side bar conversations prior to a large meeting all the time. Doing this allows them to understand their peers' position and support on an issue that will inevitably be brought up. It's a political way of saving face, while knowing who your internal competitors are in the office.

Reading the article, I looked into past moments of my own career and I distinctly remember being invited to one of these private meetings. A manager called me a day before a large staff meeting and asked me directly, "What is your opinion on this issue?" and said, "Here is what I'm willing to support." Looking back, it was smart on his part because I was clearly waving around a lot of hefty data points that could make him look bad. But I've gotta say, the conversation with the manager itself -- with its brutal candor -- surprised me. It made me feel included more than anything.

When I asked other Vice Presidents and Directors about this male-driven practice during my own research, they agreed that this was common, and the fact that I was invited to such a meeting meant I had certainly earned the right.

When HBR surveyed men the comments about women in meeting were:

Women need to be concise and to the point. We are afraid of how women will react to criticism.

Women need to speak informally and off the cuff. Women are emotional and defensive when challenged.

On the flip side, women's comments around meetings were:

We don't get feedback when we ask for it. We can't get a word in during the meeting. It's not emotion - it's passion.

I'm not sure what the answers are for women to feel more powerful at work and to be heard, considering the above findings.

I do think we have some hard work ahead of us if this is the perception in 2019.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Elizabeth Lions is an international speaker and author on career management and leadership.

She is the author of three books, 'Recession Proof Yourself' and "I Quit! Working for You Isn't Working For Me" and a third book was released in 2017 on leadership and is entitled, "Hear Us Roar - Unapologetic Women Leading in Corporate America".

Many of Elizabeth's clients are women in male-dominated fields, who are looking for a crash course in how to lead and navigate the office. Many were passed over for promotions or not given the respect they deserve before encountering Elizabeth's message. Elizabeth has designed and developed leadership and career management courses which have been given in the US, Dubai and the Middle East.

Elizabeth has read over 100,000 resumes in her career and hired thousands of professionals in some of America's top organizations, among them Intel, Fiserv, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Precision Castparts and AT&T. An expert adviser on career conundrums, Elizabeth is well known in the press, and has been quoted in Yahoo, The Ladders, and Dice job boards. Her words have reached as far as the front page of the Philadelphia Tribune, PBS, CBS Money Watch, Dale Carnegie and John Tesh's blog.

Bottom line: Elizabeth knows why someone is hired, fired or promoted - which is invaluable to women in today's climate. Understanding how to get along and get ahead in the office is top of mind for today's women of Corporate America. Elizabeth provides clarity where there was once confusion.

Today, Elizabeth can be found writing, coaching and collaborating with the who's who of the Corporate America. When she isn't working, Elizabeth can be found traveling across state lines with her husband on their Harley Davidson motorcycle or in the yoga studio twisting for hours on end.

For more about Elizabeth's philosophies, programs and videos, please visit www.LIONSOLOGY.com

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