How to overcome gender stereotypes in the workplace

Present yourself as professional and capable and you’ll turn people’s misconceptions on their heads.

Gender stereotypes can be a severe hindrance to your work. They can also distract from serious issues and affect a person’s comfort level. “Women who unwittingly adhere to gender stereotypes are less likely to be taken seriously for their abilities and contributions,” explains Lahle Wolfe, About.com’s Guide to Women in Business. It’s time to stop stereotypes in their tracks and move forward.

Where to begin? “Be excellent,” insists Brenda Fiala, Strategy SVP at Blast Radius. “Set for yourself an expectation of delivering excellent work, and strive to do it positively and consistently,” she says.
When you’re a good employee it gets noticed, regardless of sex. “Your role,” explains Wolfe, “is to contribute to the success of the business.  If you are not doing that first, you will be hard-pressed to blame gender discrimination.”

Many professionals stress the importance of an appropriate wardrobe. If you want to be seen as a vital contributor to the company, you’d better look the part. “Dress professionally, not for going out,” says Fiala. “Professional attire that you are comfortable in builds confidence.” This doesn’t mean dress like a man — it means keep it clean.

If there’s a stereotype that you find offensive or degrading, simply don’t perpetuate it. Someone says that women are gossipy? “Do not engage in gossip, no matter how tempting.” This advice comes from the authors of “Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal,” Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster. Or maybe you know someone who insists that female bosses are moody or rash. “You can be a strong leader by laying out expectations clearly and giving direct feedback,” write Crowley and Elster.

“To break a stereotype you have to live outside it first,” says Wolfe. Observe and understand what stereotypes you may be falling into and make them a thing of the past.


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