Career & business advice for women leaders

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Dear Carol,

I own a successful interior design business, where we redesign corporate spaces. Our work has been featured in numerous magazines, news and talk shows.

I am seeking to expand and have been approaching larger companies about our design services. The tour has been going well, until a few days ago where I was labeled as a “showoff” at a pitch meeting by one of the chairmen. As I was highlighting our awards and accomplishments, he suddenly laughed and just shouted across the table, “showoff!”

I was immediately shaken and even moved forward with the presentation with haste just to avoid further embarrassment. Should I stop highlighting my company’s awards and accomplishments? Since that meeting, I have been overhauling our presentation so it does not appear to be a list of publicity and features.

Your thoughts,

The Showoff


Dear “The Showoff,”

Expanding a successful business is tough work, especially as a woman. However, do not let that one rude comment deter you from highlighting the wonderful contributions and public reviews you have received. They are necessary to earn additional clients.

According to world-renowned gender communication expert, Deborah Tannen, “men speak to determine and achieve power and status. Women talk to determine and achieve connection.” So while you are seeking to connect with the audience, the “person” who interrupted you was attempting to exert power in the room. It is a common problem for women leaders; consistent interruption. According to a 2014 study conducted at George Washington University, when men were talking with women, they interrupted 33 percent more often than with (other)men.

Ask yourself, would he have interrupted your presentation with such a comment if you were a man? In fact, how many men are ever labeled as a “showoff” for taking pride in their professional accomplishments?

Do not change your presentation to limit the amount to publicity given to your work and accolades. It is not “showing off,” and rather than allowing it to deter or distract you, make sure you speak up and explain how your work is changing corporate culture, and these are the industry experts who agree with you. It only takes one distraction to lower our confidence as women, but it also takes the correct response to communicate the value of our professional contributions.

Change the response, not your pitch.

Best of luck!

— Carol Sankar

Carol Sankar is a high level business consultant and the founder of The Confidence Factor for Women in Leadership, which is a global executive leadership firm focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives for high level women. Carol has been featured at TEDx, The Steve Harvey Show, Bounce TV, Inroads, The Society for Diversity, SHRM, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes and more. For more details, visit

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