A woman recently confided in me “I feel like I’m not always taken very seriously because I’m a woman and I’m younger than everyone else at the table.”   She was very frustrated and very sincere. 

I remember being in the exact same situation…. OH do I remember ever so clearly!!   The days of being called “kiddo” and not feeling confident enough to speak up was a journey in itself, and I jumped in head first to share my story and offer her 5 tips that helped me secure my place at the table:

  1. Stop Acting Like a Victim.  No one likes to hear this, but I can’t change the fact that it’s true.  If you walk into a board room or team meeting acting like a victim, chances are people are going to start treating you like one.  Needless to say you won’t be getting the respect you deserve.  We’re women!  We’re tough!  We don’t need pity respect; we can earn it fair and square. Start knowing (and acting) like you are a power not to be messed with.
  2.  Visualize yourself at that boardroom table.  You already know to start acting powerful, do you also look powerful?  What are you wearing?  Do you have a defeated look on your face, or the sharp eyes of a successful young go-getter?  How do you carry yourself?  How do you sit? These are all subtle clues that tell other people you are to be respected. 
  3. Prepare in Advance – Do you know who looks young, inexperienced and unworthy of respect?  The person who is not ready when called upon.  The person unconfident in their answers.  And the person who makes excuses for poor performance.  Don’t do these things.  Know your stuff and be prepared to stand your ground.  Have your information ready and know that it is correct.
  4. Before the meeting starts, take a minute to look at yourself in the mirror. Tell the person looking back at you that YOU are smart and powerful, and girlfriend, you can do ANYTHING! (Feel free to hear it in my voice if that helps 🙂
  5. Reach out to other female leaders at the table or in your company.  Ask them out for lunch or a coffee and ask them one on one how they have handled it.  Watch them during the meeting for subtle things that she may be doing that you can inherit.  Successful women will always have time to help other women; so don’t ever worry about bothering them.  Trust me!

Ok I said 5 things but I have a bonus one here for you.  Many years ago on the tv show “The Apprentice” one of the judges was Carolyn Kepcher.  I will always remember her telling one of the teams in the boardroom “If you don’t earn their respect, then you DEMAND their respect!”  Now that’s a little harsher than I might normally say it, but there’s some truth to it.  Some people are going to be biased because of your gender or your age.  You may have to get tough with them if they speak over you in meetings, and otherwise treat you like an inferior.   It will be a little unpleasant perhaps, but they will respect you.

To sum up dear sisters, if you are having trouble getting taken seriously at work, don’t let it turn you into a victim.  Be tough, look and act like a professional who knows her stuff and the respect will come.

  • Carrie