Originally posted by Forbes.
Mika Hunter, Forbes Councils Member
Mika is a Founder, Coach, & Teacher. She is a career coach for women leaders. Creator of 40 Days of Influence & Female Defender.
For more than 15 years, I worked in an industry where more than 92% of the population were men. During those 15 years, none of my direct executives were women. As the years went by, I ultimately found myself the first African American, the first woman and, most importantly, the first person ever to fulfill a new executive-level position where I was hired.
I had great male mentors who helped prepare me for the promotion. Conversely, I learned some tough lessons from men who had a lot to learn for themselves. I remember a time when I eavesdropped on a conversation. A group of men who were in management positions was laughing at how two very capable women were having a "catfight" (not my choice of words). They did not realize I was nearby and could hear the conversation. I am not the type to eavesdrop, yet could you imagine the inclination to hear the entire conversation?
I don’t believe that women are at fault when being called hurtful names. Women should not be compared to cats in the workplace. Furthermore, I know that most companies have complaint processes designed with good intent. Yet how many women have been promoted and hired to a position of authority based on the results of a company complaint system? I am not opposed to processes that create equality; I am an advocate. I believe women today can further benefit from coaching, guidance and mentorship to assist along the journey.
When leadership positions are filled with people who represent our nation's diverse demographic, decisions can be made that better suit us all. Years ago, after hearing that conversation, I knew that no room filled with only one gender of the population should make decisions for a whole group of people.
Below are three of my coaching tips for avoiding stereotypical labels in the workplace.
1. Stay positive.
Maintain a positive outlook! Some people think positivity is overrated; well, think again. Being positive doesn’t mean that you stand idly by and allow the situation to happen without doing anything. Having a positive attitude reduces stress and helps you maintain focus to make the best decisions. Most people want to hire and promote those who make good decisions. Last year, I had a discussion with a person who believed she was being overlooked for a promotion due to gender. She was angry with her boss and allowed her anger to consume her. She lashed out at her supervisor in the presence of other managers and decision-makers. Even if her claims about her supervisor were true, she had just handed a room full of decision-makers reasons to overlook her during the next promotion cycle. History will record how well you handle difficult circumstances.
2. Avoid getting involved with office gossip.
A Los Angeles Times news report stated that most people pay more attention to negative news than positive news. Bad news travels fast. Unless you are a journalist, I recommend you stick to the facts and avoid spreading updates about the personal lives of others. Besides, not only are you taking time away from what your employer pays you to do, gossips “get labeled.”
I have worked in many organizations; for every organization, I can remember who the gossips were. For some, the behavior they displayed created barriers to their success. If you are gaining more expertise in communicating unsubstantiated claims of others and spending less time demonstrating your value in the organization, it gives potential mentors and career sponsors reasons to choose more suitable candidates.
Today, as I reflect back on the conversation I heard, I consider those people in that room gossips. There was a lot wrong with what happened that day. I hope that sharing this experience will help others along their journey.
3. Select roles that are aligned with your goals.
Don’t feel like you have to bake, cook or always lead work center roles that are thought to be associated with women unless it's something you really like to do. A Harvard Business Review article by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, "Why Should Anyone Be Lead by You?", argues that women are often categorized as one of the following: nurturer, seductress or helper. Instead of these stereotypical labels, I believe it's time for women to be considered as the founder, director, CEO, manager, chancellor, general or president.
Original post can be found here.