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Women in business: Authenticity through balance

How can women stay true to themselves in the workplace? Regine le Roux examines how reputation is built on authenticity.

Regine le Roux, 19 August 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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With it being Women’s Month, I had initially thought about focussing on women and their role in the workplace; however let’s be totally honest, it’s a bandwagon that most have already climbed on.

What I would like to convey is that when it comes to building a reputation, it’s important to keep things real in the workplace, regardless of your gender. The truth is, a reputation is built on authenticity.

Related: 11 Tips to transform a crisis into an opportunity

Stereotyping stereotypes

It’s unfortunate that in this day and age, more often than not (and depending on the industry), some women do still feel that they need to think and behave in a certain way to make their way up the corporate ladder. But by doing so, they ignore their true feminine selves and often downplay feminine traits, which also have a key place in the business.

There is this terrible catch 22 situation: Women who display typical male traits (like assertiveness, independence and competitiveness) are considered bossy, cold and aggressive, while their male counterparts are respected for these traits (which, interestingly, are also generally accepted leadership traits).

Conversely, women who display typical female traits like compassion, inclusiveness and warmth, are often overlooked as leaders, while men in business who are warm and empathetic are lauded for these characteristics.

I was recently reminded of an interesting experiment that was conducted by Stanford Graduate Business School professor Frank Flynn, who adapted a case study about an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. Half his class was given the original case study, while the case study given to the other half was simply tweaked so that the name of the subject was Howard Roizen.

Professor Flynn asked his students to rate their impressions of Heidi/Howard, with fascinating results. Howard was generally very well perceived by the students, while Heidi was considered aggressive, selfish and unlikeable; many students said they wouldn’t hire her or work for her.

Related: How women are fueling their independence with franchises in a male-dominated sector

Everyone has something to bring to the table

For me, the case study above raises the question of female authenticity in the workplace; how do we remain true to ourselves as women, while at the same time being persuasive and powerful leaders? And I realise that the best way to succeed is not to try and do it on your own, or try to be someone that you are not; it’s about working together as a team and leveraging off each other’s strengths.

Regardless of your gender, you will have core skills, behaviours and attributes that make you unique, and that will complement the skills, behaviours and attributes of your colleagues. It’s all about seeing how best to make it work together.

Embrace your own strengths

As women, we need to embrace our own strengths and recognise that the different genders bring very different attributes - both positive and negative - to the workplace. These differences need to be honoured and leveraged for the overall success of the business. We should not try to emulate what we are not.

Ultimately it’s all about balance

When it comes to building a reputation, it’s all about balance. Too much focus on one area will cause you to neglect another key area, which will impact the overall perception and resultant reputation of your business.

Strong teams know how to utilise their members’ strongest and best qualities to the benefit of the entire team. Reputation is built on a solid foundation and this can only be achieved if all the building blocks are in place and everyone works together in harmony.

To continue the reputation management conversation, join Regine on Twitter @ReputationIsKey or Facebook

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About the author

Regine le Roux

Regine le Roux is the Managing Director and founder of Reputation Matters. She holds an M.Com Degree in Communication Management from the University of Pretoria. She is a corporate reputation specialist and hand picks and manages several teams that implement business communication strategies. Regine is the Chairperson for the Western Cape Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) Committee, and is also on the Board of the Rotary Club of Newlands, responsible for Public Image, and chairs Rotary International’s Public Image for District 9350.

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