Being the only woman in certain meetings or an entire office can be a challenge, and even put a cramp in your confidence, but thankfully there are countless ways to win at work while confidently being the only woman in the room. “There is not a woman in any industry or profession, who is not acutely sensitive to her environment,” a corporate communications expert. When you’re the only woman in the room, it may feel like a bad thing but standing alone in a sea of men can actually be an incredible asset — if you know how to make the situation work for you.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease
Chances are, your male colleagues are constantly vocalizing which opportunities and projects they want—and you might be sitting there, working hard. Sadly, most bosses are too busy to figure out what the most equitable project allocation is, and it often comes down to who yapped last to them about that hot media deal or the new partnership your company is launching. If you aren’t good at grabbing your boss in the hall or during your morning coffee break and bringing up the projects that excite you, then schedule formal time to check in at least once a month and let your boss know what you’d like to work on.
NEVER BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP, AND SPEAK BOLDLY.
That whole thing about being interrupted at work — it really does happen more often to women, according to Nelson’s research, which also shows that in meetings, men speak for longer periods of time than women. Here’s how to shut that move down: If someone cuts you off, make sure you try to gain the floor back again quickly, and then reintroduce your idea and complete your comment. If someone should bring up the same point that you did earlier as if it’s a new idea, acknowledge that it was your suggestion. You can do this politely by thanking your colleague for circling back to you. When it comes to other instances of mansplaining or of men simply being tone deaf to how the women in the room, think about the battles that you’d like to fight what usually channels your inner Rosie the Riveter? For the items that you feel warrant a response, don’t be afraid to pull someone aside and let them know how you feel. If that doesn’t work, or you’d prefer an intermediary, you can go directly to human resources and let them know that a line has been crossed.
If you’re the only woman in an office, you may feel more like a quota fulfillment than a qualified employee, and this can take a toll on your self-esteem. “Sometimes women think, maybe I really don’t belong here,” Speaking up and getting positive reactions can help turn the tables on that. Bringing notes and putting in a little extra time researching a topic before a meeting can also be helpful. If you really want a second opinion, practice pitching it aloud to someone you trust at work or a friend — sometimes all we need is a little reassurance.
Avoid Being Too Easily Offended
Guys have this thing at work called the Circle of Trust. You gain entry when they know they can be themselves around you, without being reported to HR. In the banking analyst bullpen, I heard every disgusting story there is to tell—but I stayed cool. And as a result, I eventually became part of the group and was included in the nights of ordering dinner in or going out for beers.
Don’t Be the “Yes” Woman
In the industries I’ve worked in, there’s tremendous pressure to work hard and keep an overflowing plate. Lunch and coffee runs aside, it’s all too easy to say yes to every project as you strive to “be a good employee”—but if you never say no, you’ll ultimately just hurt both yourself and your company. It’s important to stand up for the projects you really want to work on, and then push back at others times when you don’t have capacity. You can bet many of the guys say no—and you should, too.